Questions First

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Why are we afraid to make mistakes?

I recently saw this article and found the following paragraph: "In science, you make your mistakes in public. You show them off so that everybody can learn from them. This way, you get the benefit of everybody else's experience, and not just your own idiosyncratic path through the space of mistakes."

While i'm not sure that all scientists share their mistakes so that others can learn form them, i was wondering why we're afraid to make mistakes at work, for instance? Is it because we are told that mistakes are not tolerated? Could it be our education, from our family and school, that mistakes should be avoided at all cost or hidden when they happen?

  • May 31 2013: That's an easy call. Education (in America anyway) has no grounding on social development. It is purely competition only. There are no formal models for social development, authority is lorded over you without contract or explanation. Fix these things and one of the first realizations is that there is developmental value in honest failure. And sniggling and mob ridicule becomes the sign of social illiterates and arrested development rather than the norm it is still today. That's why people are afraid to fail. When we have a culture of cooperation that offsets the over-emphasis on competition, it begins to occur that failure is a stimulus that leads to synergy. And if you don't know how great a thing synergy is, you are undoubtedly a product of that flawed western education. Synergy is the coming together of two or more persons whose unique interactions creates a new whole greater than the some of its parts--in other words, together we can and will discover collaborations that lead to creation neither of us could have accomplished or even imagined alone. Capitalists frown on that kind of thing--it's winner take all, so there are probably political reasons we still have the Industrial Factory system still churning out under-achievers if not failures. IMO, no reformed educational system should accept even one failure. It's gotta be all "hit, no miss" not hit or miss with a high degree of misses.
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      May 31 2013: Interesting and convincing point. In a competition it is often easier to drag rivals down than stack one's own success. Without appropriate incentives people would end up making each other fall down to the ground.
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      May 31 2013: I completely agree with that seeing as I am a product of that fail of a system.
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      Jun 1 2013: What would be the realistic result if the educational system were to change?

      I honestly agree with your point, but from another perspective competition drives people to strive for higher achievements, and thus produce people with supposed 'higher' success, but consequently results in many failures. (Life is too damn unfair).

      Should society change there educational system in that it would reduce the competitiveness and strive for 100% success (Note: Competitiveness is part of human nature, if that helps with anything).
      • Jun 1 2013: Competition and cooperation are not mutually exclusive--it doesn't have to be all one way or all the other. Consider team sports--one team cooperates with each other and so does the other, but the two teams compete with each other and nothing is lost while so much is gained as the sport takes form. When it comes to education it becomes much more unwieldy if you think of education revolving around a building hundreds or thousands of young people come to each day. What if you dispose of that model after elementary school where the basics of language and mathematics are uptaken and convert part of that building to a "facilitation zone"? Here there would be guidance personnel, students completely liberated from the confinement to this thing we have called "class" where young people who may be intellectually ready to progress at extraordinary speeds have been dragged down by the luck of the draw of a poor teacher or slow students no longer have that confining them to 20th Century views of "normality". On the same token, those who have not done well in "class" for whatever reason get remedial help from older students where the elders are able to get credit for the social development value as well as the communication skills helping those a little younger in age can provide. I'm going to run out of characters long before I can address even a fraction of the potentials that are possible if we cease seeing education as tied to "time slots and a central building" and instead retrain what used to be "teachers" (with the help of new media technologies) to take the approach of having a number of "clients" that they "facilitate" by matching cooperative relationships which are by nature, temporary and fluid. How could this be configured so that it is not so faulty and makes for the mixture of some competition? Use what nature has shown us--the bee hive where no more than 6 and no fewer than 2 can work in a "cell" to achieve an objective. Culturize lecture as entertainment etc
  • May 30 2013: there are only two things:

    1. people have pride issues. somehow, people try to be as perfect as possible because they are afraid of being trampled on which hurts their prized ego. that hurts emotionally.

    2. people don't like to be reprimanded or punished. as we were all brought up, our parents and elders usually chastised us when we've done wrong. that hurts physically.

    people are afraid of making mistakes because it has a double effect: you have already committed one and you're a bit unsure of what happens next. people are afraid to get hurt.
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    Jun 3 2013: One reason has to do with education. In school, a mistake is the worst thing you can make, the whole grading scale is based on how many mistakes kids make. Inadvertently, this has caused a drop in risk taking and creative solutions to problems because kids are so afraid they will make a mistake they will not take a risk. You can't be creative if you are paralyzed by fear of making a mistake.
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      Jun 3 2013: Robert Kiyosaki in his book, "If you want to be rich and happy, then don't go to school", postulated pretty much exactly what you have just said Dale. By making people believe that mistakes are wrong/bad, people then become afraid to make them. This then transpires that people don't innovate in their jobs because they are afraid of being wrong!
      The missing key ingredient here about mistakes, is that you are meant to learn from them! It is by learning from your mistakes that you grow and gain more knowledge and insights. If anything, mistakes should be encouraged with the proviso that you learn from them. Much as we should learn from the mistakes of the past in our collective human history, so the same mistakes aren't made again! :D
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        Jun 5 2013: My Father, who was a masterful handyman and carpenter, said that, in today's work culture, he'd have to fire himself as a 17 year old apprentice, because he made loads of mistakes in the beginning....

        My son gets frustrated because he can't play guitar like I can...except neither could I when I started....You try, mess up, try again,mess up, try again, mess up a little less, try again....etc.
  • Jun 1 2013: I think it has to do with maturity. I'm 50 and I don't think about mistakes, one way or the other. I live life and go through each day living. If I thought to myself," oh no! I made a mistake! what will people think??" what kind of life would that be? Mistakes are facts of life, we all make them. Look at, Post-it-Notes... I have them all over my laptop.. they were a mistake.. in that, while looking for an adhesive to perform a certain task, the world got turned on to Post-it-Notes... that wasn't at all what the company was shooting for, but the "mistake" has make them millions... or, you make a "mistake" and walk down the wrong aisle at the super market, and run into your future wife, or husband... forget about making mistakes... you'll not only make less of them when you do, but you'll also learn how to live, and be human.
    • W T

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      Jun 1 2013: Superb!! ^-^
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    May 30 2013: Cause people afraid to trust us after! Cause they think we gonna make a mistake again and spoil their task.. yeah maybe that's why! :)
  • May 29 2013: The first thing that popped into my head, when I read your question, QF, was: fear of failure.
    But when I read your description, I think you're on to something when you said, "Is it because we are told that mistakes are not tolerated?"

    In 2nd grade, my teacher said to us: "You're allowed to make mistakes, that's why there are erasers on the ends of pencils." 2nd grade was a joy, because I felt that no matter what happened, I was learning something.
    In 3rd grade, my teacher would circle erased sections of my papers with red ink. Suddenly, that freedom and excitement to learn was gone.

    Victor Wooten said in his TEDed talk, "Music as a Language":
    we don't refuse to communicate with infants who are learning to talk, because they don't speak perfectly yet, do we? What kind of world would this be, if that were the case? Is there no room for development anymore?

    The wisest thing any person ever said to me, was an 8-year-old autistic boy. He said, "I can do anything. I just have to learn how first."
    • May 29 2013: Actually I think your first comment was right, "fear of failure", and that happens at a very young age.

      From parents always saying "dont", dont play with matches, dont run with scissors, dont forget, dont paint outside the lines, dont be late, dont touch... etc. It's also similar to down, quite down, sit down, put it down.

      All negative reinforcements which then lead to...

      School tests which are a perfect example, as now your being rated amongst one's peers. And compounded with 'what will people think of me', if I fail, nicely takes us to the next level, cheating on a test. Which can change peoples perception of you, clearly from a negative to a positive experience. And the respective reinforcement that comes a pass or a fail.

      Sometimes it's quite clear to see that this methodology of learning and its traits are still unsurprisingly in adults - they still have the same propensities as the child. Look at a politician as a good example.

      Which I suppose justifies/re-enforces Freud's - ID / Ego / Super-Ego philosophy.

      Which Lizanne because of your initial thought shows you are at a level of ... Always the Child :)
      • May 30 2013: Absolutely, Tify! You know me well!!

        My Mom, who was a Montessori teacher, always replaced 'don't' with 'you need'. Do instead of saying 'Don't play with those scissors', she would say, 'You need to be careful with those scissors'. It was a simple grammatical switch, turning a potentially negative comment into a positive one. Just the word 'need' implied that I was responsible for my actions, and it made me more aware of what I was doing. I totally agree, testing reinforces this deep-rooted need to achieve perfection.

        This leads me to how we deal with emotions. Just like you described, Tify, we often tell our kids not to do things, in order to protect them. We also tend to say, 'Don't cry' or 'Don't be afraid', as if switching off these natural emotions were that easy! Inadvertently, we're teaching our kids that there are some emotions that are ok to feel, and others that are not. It is a form of conditional love - we're actually saying to our children, 'I'll love you when you're happy, but not when you're angry'.

        Our natural instinct is to protect our children from pain, but the paradox is, that we need to allow them them feel it, along with every other emotion, so that they can recognize it in another - it's about building empathy. Making mistakes are vital, otherwise, how will you recognize that wonderful sense of accomplishment?
        • May 30 2013: Your right Lizanne, we need to make mistakes, it was a comment of mine in another place.

          To be a good judge you need experience, to get experience you need to make mistakes.

          I was just trying to point out how society currently changes our perception about that, from childhood to adulthood, and until we change what we do, we cant expect people to change and so nor society.

          And Lizanne realistically, I don't think by continuing along this path, we either actually doing the child any favours either, not in-terms of it's ability to learn more, nor it's ability to grow more, nor in its ability to change society and the problems that we are starting to face.

          I look at the high school drop out rate in the US, a ted talk currently on here, and I wonder if that 'negativity' is setting these kids up to fail.

          I cant tell you how so right you are about 'conditional love', you obviously know and realize that what we are seeing in society now is a direct and absolute cause of that ingrained behaviour.
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      May 31 2013: great comment! but i wonder how the 8 year old child will learn to do things? will he figure everything out himself? definitely not. someone will teach him lots of things, including what's "wrong" & "right", which means that the kid will also learn what is acceptable behaviour and what's a "mistake" (which is usually something bad, as opposed to whatever is considered good)
      • May 31 2013: I feel, there are so many levels of 'right' and 'wrong', even where mistakes are concerned.

        In this example, a mistake is not the same thing as unacceptable behavior. It's something fundamentally unintended. Unacceptable behavior implies premeditation:

        A child who feels something complex like envy, for example, can act out in an effort to change the situation. They have trouble with the initial emotion, can't figure out what it is but knows it doesn't feel good, so another emotion like frustration or anger takes over. Then what often happens, is that he/she is scolded for behaving 'badly'. The core emotion, envy, is masked by another emotion, which means the core emotion is never properly dealt with.
        When my kids act out, I try to get to the bottom of things, and work out what they were feeling before they started 'behaving badly'. We calm down, then we go back, step by step, till we work out what sparked that first emotion. Then we talk about it (and when talking doesn't work, we sing about it!)

        As far as learning goes, I agree with you QF, someone will help that child learn. Some things, he'll figure out on his own, which is a wonderful achievement. Kids know at a pretty young age what's okay and what's not okay (i.e. acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior). And even when they do, they can still 'opt' for the unacceptable behavior, and are indeed 'making a mistake' by doing so.

        Little kids deal with big feelings, it's vital they learn to be open and communicative about them in some way. That's where adults come in - parents, educators - to guide kids in discovering and coping with these emotions. Concealing our emotions won't get anyone anywhere, which goes for everybody.
        • May 31 2013: I want to agree with you, but your making a mistake :)

          Unfortunately you also forgetting that not all parents care about their children, which is another whole long subject but also effects the reason why I'm posting this, shown the final paragraph.

          Another example is the use of and influence of religion to influence people into 'mindset'. An doctrine, being imbued with specific believes. A commonly used form - indoctrination.

          Thus your assuming that parents are the primary means of morality, up to a point that's true, but it's a status quo that ends. Peer demands and opposition will nearly always trump initial guidance, as will other forces. And not all of them for good.

          Those facts and others, are used by two opposing factions, one being your typical suicide bomber, ever notice they are not men or women in their 60's? Or that they go through an indoctrination - typically managed and motivated by 'pre-selected' peers.

          The other opposing faction being the military, ever wonder why the average age of a solider in Vietnam was 18-19?

          Lest we forget the why the word exists and the obvious implications that word has - infantRY

          I wont go into the whole cult scenario - but they follow similar psychological patterns of indoctrination, honed to their specific goals.

          and the reason for this comment is that, motivational changes can and do significantly adjust a child's perspective of what you said Lizanne about - 'Kids know at a pretty young age what's okay and what's not okay (i.e. acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior).'

          That's why I think that comment, while it has the potential to be true, is not the whole truth.
      • May 31 2013: Tify, if I did, it was absolutely unintended, despite the fact I'm a grown-up (on the outside, anyway!!)

        My point of view is indeed, but one point of view. Seeing the world in a broader perspective is the main reason I visit TED on a daily basis. ;) You are absolutely right, I often see children who are 'dumped' at school and left to their own devices.
        And, I notice the influence of peer pressure on my kids - you're so right, the effects of it sometimes undermine my methods. This just motivates me to work harder, to get at that core and encourage communication, especially when it concerns situations that take place outside the home.

        Young minds are easy to mold, if it's fighting a war or selling them stuff they don't need. There are indeed so many examples of the youth being brain-washed into making mistakes, for 'the good of *fill in the blank'. The Hitler Youth jumps to mind - can't imagine a bigger mistake than that...

        Reality and history has shown, we do possess the ability to suppress what we know is 'right', in order to comply.
  • Jun 15 2013: People are afraid to make mistakes because of a deeply entrenched societal norm that communicates that a mistake is equal to failure. People don't want to fail. The problem is that the fear of making mistakes cripples people. People who are highly capable, people who are well intentioned, people who can make a difference will shy away from even attempting something because of the fear of failure.

    I agree with the referenced article, that we should absolutely celebrate mistakes, as scientists do. However, it should be noted that the even more honorable factor of mistake making that wasn't mentioned is that of the attempt, stepping up to the starting line. Whether or not you actually complete a task mistake free, you've set yourself apart from the masses who would rather not try then make a mistake if you simply try. There can be no success without an attempt.

    I am a middle school assistant principal and I see the fear of making mistakes holding hundreds of students back from meeting their full potential all too often. Fear related paralysis plagues our youth. The good news is, we can change that by modeling the necessity of attempting to achieve, by demonstrating willingness to try, to mess up, to learn, and to try again.
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      Jun 24 2013: I agree with majority of your opinions. But we need to separate mistakes. I realize more then 4 kind of mistakes exists, so it`s important to recognize it.
  • Jun 12 2013: I wouldn 't say that we are afraid to make mistakes. Actually, we are afraid of what other people are going to say about our action or behaviour.
  • Jun 4 2013: When I was a child, I was beaten if I made a mistake. Now, even though I am 60 years old, I have a panic attack if I think I have made a mistake. I admit them and accept responsibility for what I have done but when I first realize what I did, it scares the heck out of me.
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    May 30 2013: Quote break:

    "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Albert Einstein
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      May 30 2013: I disagree.
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        May 30 2013: Why?
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          May 30 2013: um, actually i read it wrong. i agree. LOL my mistake.
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        May 30 2013: Too too funny......Are you humbly admitting a "mistake"......How grand!!!!
        And, how appropriate in this conversation..LOL

        But now I am a bit disappointed, because I was hoping to learn your perspective on this quote.
        Oh well...thanks Thaddea for your replies (both of them)

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      May 31 2013: isn't that impossible though? not to make any mistakes, that is.
      • W T

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        May 31 2013: Of course, it is least I think it is.

        I think perhaps Einstein was saying that we MUST take the risk of making mistakes in order to grow and learn and try new things. Otherwise, we just stay the same our whole entire life, and do not grow?
  • Jun 19 2013: I think that we as a culture have incorrectly classified the value of a mistake. We tend to see mistakes as a waste of valuable time we could have spent being right. We often look back on mistakes we've made as a unit or group (Slavery, Universal Suffrage, etc. - I'm from the US) and think, "Wow, how could they have been so blind" as opposed to "Wow, I'm glad we got that right eventually." It also comes from pride in some ways. Some like to think that they have that knowledge or piece of the puzzle that no one else has. We see mistakes as moments when we fall down and correctness as moments when we pull ourselves up. We really should see mistakes as ways to pull ourselves up and moments of correctness as ways to pull others up.

    Education plays a big role in the perpetuation of this negative view of mistakes and correctness, but it is not the sole reason. Our systems are reflections of our own values; we have to acknowledge problems with our moral code or list of virtues as a community before we can expunge and correct those problems as a community.
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    Jun 17 2013: Dear Questions First,
    I think you are spot on when mentioning some of the reasons people are afraid to make mistakes...sometimes told that mistakes are not tolerated...should be avoided...hidden when they happen...". I suggest...mistakes are sometimes refered to as "failure"? People may think less of those who make mistakes? We may think less of ourselves?

    The definition of mistake includes..."wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment".
    It also says..."inadequate knowledge".

    These statements, both part of the definition of "mistake", seem contradictory to me. If we do not have adequate knowledge, I don't know how a decision can be labeled "wrong", or "faulty judgment".

    Whatever the reason, I do not feel afraid to make mistakes, because in my perception, life is an exploration. I embrace the part of the definition which says..."inadequate knowledge", and continue to seek more knowledge, so I do not make the same less useful choice or decision again. Decisions and choices I make are based on all available information I have at any given time, and I do the best I can with the knowledge I have in the moment. We can move along the path of life, and in my perception, there are no mistakes....only opportunities to learn, grow and improve our life experience:>)
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    Jun 13 2013: It comes from when we were children when the others kids would laugh at you if you where different.
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      Jun 14 2013: Raymond yes, you have a point there.
      You can even end up with a nickname because of it, and the nickname can follow you all through school.
      Thank you.
  • Jun 12 2013: It might be appropriate to add Shakespeare's quote from Hamlet, "...there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." Mistakes are perhaps a matter of individual perception for some of society's greatest mistakes became some of our greatest inventions.

    Brené Brown talks about making mistakes in her book, "The Gifts of Imperfection" which is a great read. Worth a read for some understanding regarding mistakes and shame. This talk was helpful for me as well in understanding this fear:

    Mark Epstein is also a great read for understanding how mindfulness can allow us to overcome this fear. His book "Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart" is great as well.

    Great conversation to ask the questions that allow us to be mindful in our daily lives!
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      Jun 13 2013: Evan, I really enjoyed your contribution to this conversation.

      I was familiar with Brene Brown's work, but had not heard of Epstein.
      You gotta love the title of his book!!!
      I'm going to try and find it and read it.
      It sounds like a good read.

      • Jun 13 2013: Hi Mary,

        You're very welcome. Epstein is a great read. He approaches psychotherapy through a Buddhist lens which is quite interesting. He tackles the ego and how liberation from our ego's allows us to understand our true potential and come to Enlightenment.

        Perhaps, making mistakes bruises our egos and we have to free ourselves from them in order to be as I think Brené puts it, secure in our insecurities.
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          Jun 14 2013: Evan, thank you so much for this further explanation.
          Good news, my local library has a few copies of the book.

          I'll put it on my TBR list.

          Thanks again!
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    Jun 11 2013: I feel its because we feel ashamed
  • Jun 11 2013: we tend to avoid public shame and the side effects derived from them. Making mistakes is something that's not tolerated in our societies even if we don't have a writen code, we seem to have an invisible mental law clung to our inner person that prevents us from doing something that risks our reputation before others. I feel we do it because we want to protect ourselves, and to be more precise, our selfsteem. and the other hand, PRIDE has its share!
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    Jun 10 2013: Well, what exactly is a mistake? Yes, we can agree that you can learn from mistakes, but sometimes the lesson that we learn is not victorious enough to overpower the damage from the mistake.
    In science mistakes are usually not feared because the whole goal o experimentation is to make mistakes. The information that you learn from these mistakes prevails over the detriment which is caused by the mistake. This detriment sometimes not even existing.
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    Jun 10 2013: We are raised to be perfectionists. At school, everybody expects us to have perfect grades. We are expected to have a perfect social attitude, a perfect appearance, a perfect mental state. Of course, we can't -it's just not feasible. And deep inside, we know that. But even though when these extremely high expectations from the people around us are forced on us for the first time we know they're totally wrong, we get used to them and we begin having these expectations ourselves.
    Mistakes should happen and it's not possible for them not to happen. If we are perfect since our birthday, what's the point of education, what's the point of experimenting with things? Mistakes should be accepted and then corrected. That's the only way that we can evolve.
  • Jun 9 2013: It's because of simple princeple: "Human being is social animal and he is wise enough to expresive. Being social animal, he made the soceity with rules & regulations to run the soceity".

    Soceity made these rules based on the understanding & consequnces of the situations at that time, mainly with the intension of public interest. As per me, at least some of current rules & regulations may not be completely perfect / some times wrong, because of misunderstanding of the situations when the rule is framed. Example: so many sceintist hanged or killed, when they invented some thing against the rules. but later those rules were chaged during the evaluation of finding real truth.

    I think & I am sure, Finacial indipendence of all the groups (such as, young, women, old, handicapped, even children group, etc,) in all places may induce the revolution of many social rules & regulations. we have seen this in past & hystory is suggesting the same.
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    Jun 5 2013: When I was a Pastry Chef, I had a boss once say one thing she loved when she was a "department of one" was that no-one saw her mistakes; if she burned a tray of croissants, she simply threw them out and started over, even though that might add an hour two to her day. Granted, she tried very hard to not make mistakes because she valued her time as much as anyone. However, if she was working in a department of several, like I was with her, any mistakes were immediately noticable and seemingly "worse" than hers might have seemed to her.

    I think we fear mistakes because we are taught that there is ONE way to learn...that is by mastering the task the first time. Mistakes are too often associated with improper learning or inattention, rather than simply not learning the way we are taught. It is seen as the student's fault if they don't get a concept or task...
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    Jun 5 2013: For some reason Donald Rumsfeld's famous statement came to my mind:
    “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
    There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

    Nate Silver's penetrating book “The Signal and the Noise” also refers to this quote. While many people like scientists and forecasters are placing much emphasis on revealing or predicting known unknowns, it is unknown unknowns such as the 9/11 terror attack — most people had never thought about if an airplane would crash into a huge tower — that may potentially influence our life and therefore we should really care about (which is impossible because we don't know they exist). Failing to do something is acceptable as long as it doesn't trigger unprecedented effects — that is, unknown unknowns — but otherwise we would hesitate to try. Fear of mistakes could be part of our instinct to survive in this world where unknown unknowns are omnipresent.
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      Jun 10 2013: I've spent the last decade trying to sustain the rumor that Donald Rumsfeld spent two years confinement at the federal maximum security prison in Butner North Carolina for obstruction of justice . . . or maybe I just want to start the rumor . . .

      But the unknown/unknowns are always there. And dealing with those requires two things: 1) Vigilance, and 2) Courage. It is said that "Eternal Vigilance is the price of freedom." You just have to pay attention to protect yourself. That's the risk of the Unknown. And Courage is always part of every decision we make -- where we have to act upon incomplete or potentially inaccurate information.

      And the most consistent observation I have made thus far is quite simple. Even an obviously BAD decision creating misery for everyone, iS often much preferable to making NO DECISION. The consequences of making a bad decision can often be corrected or repaired. But making no decision can destroy everything.
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        Jun 11 2013: Juan, and don't you think that a person who repeatedly makes mistakes and gets called out on them might end up deciding to make no decisions at all, in order to avoid mistakes?

        I know people like that. They will not make a single decision.....because they are afraid of making a mistake.......

        I remember when I was young that I would go out with a group of friends, and nobody wanted to say where we should go....nooooo.....I had to always speak first and give the options available.
        It gets old....having to decide all the time.....and also dealing with the backlash if things do not turn out well. But it is a risk I have always been willing to take.

        Other people.....not so much. These individuals are, in my opinion, emotional cowards. I know, tough terminology, but I am surrounded by individuals like that.
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          Jun 11 2013: Some people are just like that. And I guess that's OK. The rest of us certainly have to live with it. And It can be tough to describe others in exactly the way that you see them. It takes courage. But what's to be gained by saying or doing anything else?

          I see the courage that underlies your insight. And I think we both know that some people love the freedom of "backlash." The gal with the guts to decide sticks her neck out - and then has to put up with the petty blame-game when things don't go well. I guess that's how some people delude themselves into thinking that they are never wrong. They just wait. And then pass judgment on others. I've seen that pattern before. We all have at one time or another.

          I've always tried to get away from those where and when I could. Get away and stay away.

          Also, I have to revise my comments above. I met a Doctor who told me once, "If you don't know what to do, don't do ANYTHING!" I was perplexed, but then she explained her words. In medicine, you make a big mistake if you just experiment to see what works. Your patients want to get better. If you don't know what you are doing, you can 1) make them sicker, & 2) make it harder for a Physician who does know what they are doing to sort out the mess you have created. So, like anything in life, you have to find a balance.
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        Jun 11 2013: "What's motherhood got to do, got to do with it?" (to be sung, rather than read, to the tune of Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It)........Lizanne would be proud of me for this little musical creativity.

        Being a mom has nothing to do with it Juan...imho.

        I think that individuals who avoid making decisions because they are afraid of making mistakes have issues with autonomy. At least that is what I have read in psychology books. Add to this that many times these individuals wait and wait until someone else steps forward and decides for them, just so that they can turn around and criticize a bad decision, is just terribly terribly wacked.

        But, unfortunately, some individuals have had this sort of conditioning.

        So, how to fix it?

        I have read that you have to empower these individuals, praise them for their decision making skills when they do decide on something. Their self-esteem needs to be built up.

        I am presently working on those around me.....I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. But it requires alot of patience.....I myself am a work in progress.
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          Jun 11 2013: Out of deference to your observation, to wit: "What's motherhood got to do with it?" I edited my earlier comments to remove my offensive presumptions. But if my removal, of my formerly offensive 'motherhood' comments, are, themselves, offensive (is offensive?) then I'll put them back.

          . . . 'er, if I put my fat 'foot-in-it', I tried to fix it! If I failed to fix it and just missed the point, well, I can find a way to fix that too!

          "What's Mom got to do, got to do with it . . . ?" I get the Tina Turner reference. Wikipedia says some wonderful things about her!

          As far as your comment: "So how to fix it?" I generally do NOT go there. Not when dealing with other adults. If things get too "backlashed" I just absent myself from the equation. But this does explain my, now deleted, "Motherhood reference." I grew up in a culture that tends to abuse "Mom" in that way. It isn't fair, but Mom's have responsibilities that are a bit broader than the rest of us. Where I grew up, Mom's tend to supervise everything! So if you screw up, somewhere, somehow, 'Mom' will let you know! That is, if you're lucky . . .

          Backlash? The best Moms have the resources to deal with even that! And Mom or not, so do the strongest women. And the strongest women are people that only a fool would mess with. For sure!
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        Jun 12 2013: Oh, you don't need to apologize, I was not offended.
        I was just attempting some humor with my comment.

        But in all seriousness, I don't really think my observations and feeling are necessarily related to being a mom. I am just an observant person.

        I do feel that, at times, we can help others, albeit in a tactful, discreet way. That is, if the person is someone we love and care about, and if we are always around them and see how their behavior hurts themself and others.

        I usually steer clear of these types of individuals Juan. They suck the life out of me.

        You know, when I read Covey's Habits of Successful People and learned about interdependence, I underwent a huge paradigm shift. Since then, I have worked hard to not be the only person who works around my home. And, although I observe alot more than the others around me......I pick my battles carefully, and I help others to also be "aware".....all for their own good.

        "The strongest women are people that only a fool would mess with"......if you say so.

        I liked this quote I read once:

        "A strong woman stands up for herself, a stronger woman stands up for someone else."

        Check out superwoman:
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    Jun 1 2013: Interesting question.
    We are afraid to make mistakes because we are conditioned into believing that mistakes are bad and wrong. People will laugh at us, or punish us, so we lose face and feel ashamed.

    Children naturally learn by trail and error without embarrassment. Parents and teachers knock this out of us. It leads to people covering up mistakes, or denying that a mistake has been made. It stops people taking responsibility for their errors. It's very damaging.
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    May 30 2013: It all depends on the mistake. There are mistakes so small that nobody cares if you make them. We all make them and we don't worry about it. But I've had jobs (flying) where a seemingly small mistake could easily cause the loss of life, and you just can't make those mistakes. There are good and obvious reasons to be afraid of making those mistakes.

    And then there are all the other in-between mistakes - embarrassing, perhaps costly, but not fatal. I worked with a guy who evidently dressed in the dark, because from time to time he'd show up with one brown shoe and one black. I was "helpful" and pointed it out to him one time, and he was genuinely shocked and slightly embarrassed. But it kept happening just as often as before. I liked his attitude - the shoes were meaningless to him. On the job he worked with great concentration and precision, because his work was important. The shoes just weren't. The moral is perhaps, don't sweat the small stuff. But the flip side is do sweat the big stuff: Don't drive without giving full attention to driving. Mistakes here happen quickly and can be fatal, just as in flying.
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    May 30 2013: To be creative we need to be open to make mistakes.
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      May 31 2013: good point, but in order to get read of the fear, why not give it more effort? in other words, we're afraid to make mistakes, we know we could avoid them, but we still make them. why?
  • May 29 2013: You might want to read some of the comments in this conversation:

    In that conversation, I pointed out that failure/mistakes can cause real harm.

    We are afraid to make mistakes for a good reason, the resulting harm..
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    Jun 27 2013: It starts already in our childhood when we are told not to make any mistakes and when we are being punished for our mistakes. I think it's important for a child to know that there are no mistakes that can not be fixed.
    • Jun 27 2013: yea i agree with u but if we don't punch them they will think that they can do any thing they want right ??
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        Jun 27 2013: Right, I punch my two every chance I get. All they have to do is look at me for too long and I punch them. Both of them have black eyes right now, I mean It's summer time, who's gonna really know if you keep them locked up in the house? They live in fear of me but they sure know who is boss!

        Funny typo, I HOPE!
        • W T

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          Jun 28 2013: I think the word they were trying to use is "punish" immergent writer whose English skills are still developing.........or perhaps too much texting?

          In either case, my ability to decode children's writing helped me here.

  • Jun 26 2013: Cause people afraid to trust us after! Cause they think we gonna make a mistake again and spoil their task.. yeah maybe that's why! :)
  • Jun 20 2013: We are afraid to make mistakes because since we were young, all the people we met teach us to be right. Now that we are no longer young, we made an auto evaluation of our self and fear is in the top of the list. This is bizarre because we were born without fear and judgment.
  • Jun 20 2013: Because we falsely believe that mistakes show a FLAW rather than a learning experience.
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    Jun 17 2013: "Mistakes are our friends," read a poster in my classroom.
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    Jun 17 2013: Our education system conditions people to be afraid to take risks. Think about how uncertainty is handled in the system? An uncertain answer on a test, quiz or paper is punished with a D or F. But, think about the process of learning. Learning of necessity requires going through an uncertain phase--where ideas are all ishy-squishy. The same is true of creativity, which is connected to learning. We punish uncertainty, but uncertainty is a huge component of learning and creativity!

    Imagine a five year old before he's went to school. Give him a blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons. He'll draw purple giraffes. Then, the poor kids enters the education system and the toxic process of conditioning begins. He's told giraffes aren't purple. They're orange. Instead of being given the freedom to explore ideas, he is given paint-by-numbers ways to approach ideas. He is told what to think instead of taught how to think. When he exits high school he just wants to know the answer to one question from his college instructors: what do you want me to say and how do you want me to say it.

    When someone tries to give him back his blank sheet of paper and big box of crayons, he's scared of it. He has now embraced the academic version of the Stockholm system. He is embracing the system that is imprisoning him. It's the only thing he knows. He's been punished repeatedly for uncertainty, so he plays the game, keeps his mouth shut and just does what he's told. He's become a puppet in the education system and could become a puppet for others if the conditioning is not broken.
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    Jun 16 2013: In my experience, to admit to a mistake is to admit to many mistakes. In situations where we are under fire from peers, parents or anyone else, to admit we were wrong and to then take responsibility for a mistake is to open a door to the possibility that we have been wrong all along. That can be seemingly intolerable.
  • Jun 16 2013: First of all, what is a mistake and what is a failure?
    It's always about the degree. A failure is something that's almost impossible to correct.

    For example, a mistake costing enormous amount of time or other resources can be a failure.
    Society has some expectations of people, not meeting them is considered a failure, not a mistake.
    That's why actually changing it is so hard.

    Making too many mistakes is considered a failure in its own right. More so, if these are mistakes of the same kind...
  • Jun 13 2013: A society where no one made mistakes would be a perfect society. Personally I'd rather live in a vibrant, dynamic, evolving society that a society of stagnant perfection.
    Berthajane Vandegrift
  • Jun 13 2013: One of the biggest reasons I think is, thinking about the outcome, possibly a FAILURE.
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    . .

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    Jun 13 2013: "To err is human; to forgive, divine."

    —Alexander Pope: 18th-century English poet
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    Jun 13 2013: I don't like making mistakes. It gives stupid people an excuse to be mean to me!
    • W T

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      Jun 13 2013: Intelligent and well-read individuals who wield power can also be mean Juan, if your mistake costs them money or embarrassment.

      Sometimes people are mean because you are correct and you expose that THEY are the ones who erred.

      Aren't we humans something else?

      Since you are a reader, I highly recommend the book Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz (TED speaker).
      I've recommended it and quoted her so much lately that I feel like I have royalties coming to me.
      But, I could be wrong about this feeling. :)
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        Jun 13 2013: Thanks for the recommendation.
        • W T

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          Jun 13 2013: You are welcome....btw I'm enjoying the NSA conversation and your contributions.
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    Jun 11 2013: would think it has you shrink back when put on the spot. .
    those who got blasted time and again are too petrified
    to ever go our on a limb again
    besides, since all is programed from with . .
    and all you are about is constantly dismissed
    it seems to me, this world has yet to learn
    then again it loses much of the already known
    as each starts a fresh sadly, this world has so turned around, that nature's easy outs to all, are continually dismissed, and in fact, many are labeled schizophrenic and drugged out of their mind
    the cosmic call . . has best have us hush
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    Jun 11 2013: Popular culture prides itself in the image of the superman and the flawless wonderwoman. We love success stories and failures or setbacks would mean (as far as we are concerned) that you've not worked hard enough or you're not talented enough or you're not one of the 'genuises' that get it right the 1st time.

    The risk of these labels makes us afraid of making mistakes.
  • Jun 9 2013: In India making a mistake is grave crime. You are expected to be super perfect from the day you are born.Making a mistake has many consequences , you may get blacklisted in the society.
    • Jun 9 2013: Wow, this is atrocious, Santokh! How did you cope with this impossible expectation?
    • Jun 12 2013: That is not true Santokh. Please refrain from generalizing what happens in your neighbourhood.
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        Jun 12 2013: You know Kedar, with all the atrocities happening in India, the rapes and the mob attacks on Christians, I think perhaps that in Indian society there needs to be a widespread education on what exactly constitute a mistake.

        Sometimes, from what I have seen and read, just walking out your front door on any given day, might be a mistake.
        • Jun 13 2013: I would like to reply the same. Don't generalize what happens in your neighbourhood. It is always strategy of racist people to see through eyes of races even though there are other reasons for an incident.
          My experience of living in India does allow me to believe your opinion. I have stayed in USA, Europe & India. Everywhere we can see people of all kind. If you wish, I can list down atrocities, child molestation done in religious places of other countries & mob attacks on minorities in other countries. Our duty is to condemn bad things in society without being judgmental about a particular society.
          Also India is not toptic of discussion here. we should debate in another forum about it.
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        Jun 13 2013: Kedar, thanks for your reply.
        I too have lived in many countries like you.
        I know many individuals who live in India personally.

        What I meant to say with my comment, and it is not a generalization to speak facts, is that sometimes, innocent individuals who go out into their neighborhood, suffer at the hands of others in a way that is not common in other places.

        In most places around the world, you are free to leave your home and go to the place of worship of your choice without fear of being stripped and beat with cane sticks.

        If I have brought you any discomfort please accept my deep apology, it was not my intention.

        I harbor no judgmental feelings towards Indians in general or any other cultural group, but I can see where the way I worded my comment above comes off this way. I wrote fast, and made poor choice in words.

        Thank you for reading my comment Kedar.
        By the way, my name is Mary.
        • Jun 13 2013: Thank you Mary for being considerate about my views on Santokh's statement.
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        Jun 14 2013: You are welcome Kedar.
        I hope to read some interesting comments from you in the future around the TED site.
        Be Well.
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    Jun 8 2013: Two Books (before I answer) I would recommend on this subject is :
    - "Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts" (By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson)
    - "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error" (By Kathryn Schulz)
    Also it is worth mentioning that we will always end up making mistakes, due to our limited cognitive abilities (in other words our flawed senses) and due to having not enough information or data (so we might conclude that the earth is the centre of the universe quite rationally, when this isn't the case).
    So why do we find it hard to admit our mistakes.
    The reasons I can think of it being hard for being to make mistakes, is because mistakes are usually not beneficial (depending on what your doing), and the fact that making mistakes is viewed as a negative in our society. So we are "negatively" reinforced not to make mistakes, considering making mistakes may make people think we are "stupid" which could in-turn influence your chance of getting a mate.
    However being wrong is an important part to the scientific method, by being wrong we get closer to the truth. So in this sense being wrong can be beneficial.
    I shall leave with this quote :
    “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” — Ken Robinson
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    R H

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    Jun 8 2013: We're afraid of making mistakes because we could get fired, because our kids might lose respect for us, our parents would yell at us, it could cost alot of money, we could get hurt, we could be fined or put in jail, we might actually succeed at something and therefore be responsible and/or liable, and a host of other negative reinforcements. Isnt 'fear' always born from negativity? It is the worst 4-letter word we have, in my opinion, and prevents us from everything positive, productive, and good - again in my opinion.
    • Jun 9 2013: I agree, R H. Fear is paralyzing. It's also the best marketing tool on earth... sadly.

      We learn at an early age to consider the consequences of our actions, which has a negative tint to it. However, the consequences of making a mistake, albeit unintentional, are also often construed as negative. We seem to be more worried about possible negative eventualities rather than truth = fear.
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        Jun 19 2013: I heard FEAR broken down as as acronym once: False Evidence Appearing Real

        I find this to be pretty true most of the time.
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      Jun 22 2013: R H, I had a moment while listening to Brene Brown's talk

      Fear- future
      Shame- past

      I don't know how to explain my understanding any better than that.
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        R H

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        Jun 22 2013: Beautiful. Thnx.
  • Jun 7 2013: Dear QR, and everyone, I stumbled across this and had to share it:
    • W T

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      Jun 7 2013: Art teachers are notorious for making mistakes.....disappear.....
      Just when you were afraid of a mistake in your drawing, your teacher comes over and turns it into a bird!!!

      Nice one Lizanne!!
      • Jun 8 2013: Mistakes, shmistakes! It's called 'artistic license', Mary!! ;)
      • Jun 11 2013: Yup, mine expires in a few months...
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          Jun 11 2013: Did you also make a funny face?
          I really had no idea these existed.
          How very creative!!!
      • Jun 11 2013: Oh my goodness, I was kidding... I had no idea they existed either, but I do swear by it!!! ;)
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          Jun 11 2013: What?.....Are you kidding me?....I swallowed that one hook, line, and sinker.

          How very very funny Lizanne.

          Now I have to find an opportunity to fool you too....hmmm (JK)...or am I? heeheehee
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    Jun 5 2013: Depends, was it a stupid mistake or an exceptable/reasonable mistake. "I wasn't wearing my steel toe boots as required and an I-beam smashed my toes to bits, sorry I made a mistake". Lol. Or is it, "Hey boss, when I was entering that data for our logistics on part returns, I put the decimal point in the wrong place by mistake, I apologize about that and I'll correct it immediately." It's also a question of repeating the same mistakes. I think that too many bosses/managers/supervisors expect perfection. I maintained a 99% accuracy rating on data entry for the year, which came down to two mistakes. I was told by my manager that he expected a 99.99% accuracy rating. I informed him that I wasn't an automaton robot, that I was a human, fallible and prone to error on occasion. That almost by defintition that's what makes us human. Even machines are prone to error. Error should be an exceptable concept. Just depends on the type of error and how repetitive it is.
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    Jun 5 2013: In my opinion,in the nawady,there are too many reasons for us to be afraid of makeing mstakes,the fundamental issue is profit,profit controls huge amount of people and influence their thinking,of course there are also some people afraid of making mistakes cuz they worry about their reputation,this is very general phenomena that is existing in academia,or someone who is on a very important position who always care about his own reputation.From my point of view,mistake should be tolerated.Let me quote Sir Ken Robinson's words"i am not saying to be wrong is the same thing to be creative,but if we do not prepare to be wrong,we never come up with anything original",and by the way let me have a short self-introduction,i am a Chinese young man,i am 31 years old,living in main land of China right now,i am very much interested in Science and a scientific way of future,i support of zeitgeistmovement and thevenusproject lol,my English skill is not good,so there were many mistakes existing in my sentences also lol ,am i making mistakes too :P
  • Jun 4 2013: Making mistakes is part of being human. When I was growing up I was beaten any time I made a mistake especially silly ones. I told my mom recently that it is better if someone made a mistake, the person's attention is called so that the person can become more aware of his/her mistakes, if it happens for the second time then I guess that person deserves a punishment. But honestly, there are certain mistakes one must not commit like a nurse administering the wrong prescription to a patient, or cheating on your wife/husband.
  • Jun 4 2013: Well.. it really depends of what sort of mistakes we are talking about.. Some mistakes will actually help us with reflection, change, experience and gaining further knowglege so we grow as individuals and mature.. not only we will be able to gain from them but we will also be able to share our experience with others and help them avoiding doing the same mistake! Neverthless.. there are other mistakes that really.. very honestly, noone wants to go through/ learn from!An example of these are "a nurse .. giving the wrong medication to a patient.. a patient could die because of it.. a doctor making a wrong diagnosis.. scary stuff.. anyone would be very affraid to make such mistakes!
  • Jun 4 2013: I think the fear of making mistakes arises from our schooling. Students know that mistakes made during exams can effect their futures. They are told this.
  • Jun 3 2013: We are afraid of making mistakes because sometimes the pressure in society makes use conceive the belief that we MUST be perfect. I think mostly sometimes the reason is because mistakes make us look like failures like we can do nothing right and often we get judged because of this.
  • Jun 3 2013: Good day!
    About making mistakes.
    People are afraid of making mistakes because of the attitude in the society, any society dictates own rules.
  • Jun 3 2013: I think it is easy to say that show your mistake off in public is also a good thing. We people live in a complex society, not utopia. Admitting mistake need huge courage, especially in face of other people. For example, if a scientist is so generous to tell others every time when a mistake happens, his/her boss, maybe university or some company, will fire him/her because this investment is useless.
    So basically, as a person, we need show others our stregth first for living. And then, if things goes well, we can do the scientific charity to show off our mistake. In China, there is a common saying, 'take care of yourself if poor, take care of others if rich'.

    As to 'why we're afraid to make mistakes', is it necessary to answer this question? Of course we are afraid.
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    Jun 2 2013: Because our socio economic model punishes person committing mistake in a varied way.
  • Jun 1 2013: We're afraid to make mistakes because we are afraid that people will think we are dumb. No one wants to be thought of as the dummy. Especially at work.

    I know this because I am a Creative Director, and for years I led team of writers and designers in Brainstorming Sessions. The idea of a brainstorming session is that "there are now wrong answers." This works because sometimes a bad or half-baked idea leads to a great or fully-baked idea. We're not always looking for the big idea...just the thought that will lead us to the big idea.

    People don't understand this. They are stuck with the voice of judgement in their head that says to them, "The idea you have isn't such a good idea. If it was a good idea, someone would have said it by now."

    Embrace the idea that mistakes can lead to great solutions. And let go of the idea that everything has to perfect, just the way it leaves my mouth.

    When people see you begin with a mistake, then fine-tune it into a big idea, you will lose the fear of making the mistake in the first place.

    Bruce Koren
  • Jun 1 2013: I personally believe that we learn a lot more from our mistakes than our accomplishments. The lessons taught come from personal knowledge and experience vesus "do as I say" (but not always "as I do"!)
  • Jun 1 2013: Yeah,I have to admit it: I am a perfectionist,or kind of.Unable to do my best will just bring me endless guilty and frustration,but now I am trying to accept whatever happens in life,and fortunately, I've made some breakthroughs.
  • Jun 1 2013: We are afraid to make mistakes because we assume ourselves are the most perfect people in this world. Based on this assumption, we became very proud. When it comes to make mistakes, we will feel frustrated and keep on ask ourselves why we're so stupid? How can we make this kind of mistakes? In addition, all of us probably enjoy the moments where others praise or give compliments to our good deeds and achievement. Therefore, this made us even more fear to make mistakes as everyone gives such high expectation on you. In my past, this trend happened in my primary and also secondary schools. When you did well, you get compliment and respect from the teachers; when you made mistakes, what you get was caning, scolding or even criticizing. It also shown in the school's classification. The excellent students will be in Class A whereas those weak or bad students will be classify as Class G. As we were living in such environment, we told ourselves that we shouldn't do any mistakes anymore. We became very cautious and try to be well behaved. However, if we don't make mistake, how do we improve ourselves? How do we make this world even better without making mistakes? Avoiding from making mistake is a huge mistake. We learned from mistakes, and we gain experience from mistakes. In a nut shell, don't be afraid to make mistakes. A person who always makes mistakes are better a person avoid himself from making mistakes.
  • Jun 1 2013: A question that goes much deeper than what meets the eye!
    At all stages of life, one is constantly pushed and coerced into doing what somebody else (higher in the 'chain of command') wishes us to do or deems correct. The act itself, of pushing the other to do something, may be a manifestation of a some unreachable abandoned conquest. Starting from as early, as when, one develops the ability to comprehend, the individual is exposed to the opinion of others. Surprisingly, it starts even before a child utters his first legible word. What starts as a simple exercise to keep the child safe, soon turns into a web of convenience. "This is good for you"... "No Johny you can't do that... its not right"... "Rita is a good girl,she listens to her mother, but look at you"
    The convenience of having things one's way takes over. Even before a child develops rationale and reason it is subjected to a system that demands conformity. It is made to 'believe' before it starts to 'understand'. The foundation, thus made is not the strongest. At every step thereafter, one looks around for 'approval' of their actions. Any deviation from the set or dare I say, 'largely acceptable socially safe patterns', is frowned upon. Thats our first tryst with mistakes. Once a child is admonished for any deviation (mistakes), the fear of 'going wrong' takes over. This one fear stays with us for the rest of our lives. School, college, jobs and ultimately life itself.
    The mind is trained to accept uniformity. We spread the same message to our kith and kin. It goes on!
    The problem does not start in school, it is only cemented there.
    We may say that the education system is flawed, but it is actually a flaw created by us. Created to have a power over the other.
    Those who rose above this flaw, are the ones who have shaped our world. We worship these non conformists.Alas, only to start a new chapter of conformity - to try and emulate their success, rather than create our path.Here in lies the malady!
  • Jun 1 2013: Being afraid of mistakes is a mistake in itself. And acting like they don't exist, and there's nothing to regret will make them never end.
    Just my two cents. I don't know if this helps answer why we are afraid.
    • Jun 2 2013: Unfortunately, our current culture points out and ridicules those who make mistakes. Cruel people will post a video or picture or blog a mistake made by some innocent person(or perhaps courageous type, depending on the point of view) and the "feeding frenzy" begins with heinous and cowardly comments and false induenos.

      That culture doesn't encourage taking a chance and potentially making a mistake.
  • Jun 1 2013: I think people feel that if they make a mistake they would lose their job or their reputation. Same thing about asking questions, they are scared of looking stupid - which is what i do all the time, look stupid.

    One of the best managers I ever worked for, said if someone made a mistake and acknowledged it, they would get a raise because they are more valuable but make the same mistake, they would be fired because that would indicate they could not learn.
    • Jun 1 2013: And therein lies the answer. No one want's to be on the precipice of unemployment.
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    May 31 2013: I think Brene Brown says it best, watch her TED Talk! Self love, knowing you are enough.
  • May 31 2013: Making mistakes is part of the learning process and is essential to growth. However in most social settings it is not how we learn from the mistake that is measured, but the fact that we may have made more mistakes than someone else. As a manager, mentor and coach we need to be able to look at what the person learns from the mistake or instead of considering it a mistake it should be seen as a learning opportunity. Another point to this is that through knowledge of our own weaknesses, which we learn through trial and error, we are better prepared to turn to those with strengths in these areas to build a stronger team.
    It is also as simple as looking at a child learning to tie their shoe. This is the hardest thing that they know at that time in their lives and we work them through a number of "Failed" attempts until they get it right. Then as adults we can tie our shoes, watch the morning news, talk to our significatn other without even looking at our shoes. It is a continuous learning process and it is when we quit learning that we need to get out of the way of those coming up who are still taking risks and making mistakes on thier own growth as they pass us.
  • May 31 2013: Well,as for me,compared with making mistakes,I am really afraid of the guilty of not doing well ...
    • W T

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      Jun 1 2013: I think this is fine.

      You want to do your best. Good for you!!!
  • May 31 2013: I think all wrong education caused that:)
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    May 30 2013: In the scientific upbeat corporate world, mistakes cost money.

    It's probably me but I get the impression that Daniel Dennett's ideas have more to do with arguing with others more so than assisting to propel valid and enlightening arguments towards the center of attention.

    The article is more like a how-to guide to assist in dispelling lame arguments. I don't see a philosophy that enlightens us to live with mistakes or be more open to making them.

    Of what use is it to the whole of humanity to win an argument if your idea is inferior to the losers?

    You might like this video about doctors who make mistakes:
    He offers some insight into doctors who make mistakes and are afraid to admit it. Perhaps some of this might spill over into the science world.
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    May 30 2013: Why, I am not. I make mistakes all the time. So many times that if I were to feel afraid for it, my life would have been a Stephen King book.
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    May 30 2013: I think it has something to do with what we'd like our impressions on others to be
    and our aim at perfection
    • W T

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      May 30 2013: Yes, sometimes it is this, but what if you are alone, and noone can see what you are doing?
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        May 30 2013: do we not stil have our conscious? and i doubt that the memory of what others think will be completely wiped away.
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          May 30 2013: Yes, Thaddea, we still do have our conscience, and the memory of what others think.

          It is interesting that the word "perfection" keeps coming up in conversation.

          So then, another question to further this conversation might be....Why do we want to be perfect? Hmmm.....
  • May 30 2013: After reading everyone's comments, I have a feeling there are two interpretations going on:
    1. Mistakes made by children, which are ok, because they attribute to the learning process.
    2. Mistakes made by adults, which are not ok, because they imply negligence or fraud.
    Thoughts on this?
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      May 30 2013: Hi Lizanne!

      How did you come to the conclusion that mistakes made by adults imply negligence or fraud?
      • May 30 2013: Hi Mary,
        I was making a debatable assumption, based on the general feel of some comments made here.
        There were comments about: a career could be at stake if a mistake is made, that a mistake is often covered up due to the reprisals fro the public, that it could be avoided if more effort was made...

        Essentially, what I'm suggesting, is that it seems like it's socially acceptable for kids to make mistakes, but not for adults.
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          May 30 2013: Yes, now I see the connection you are making.

          Mistakes are forgiven more when you are a child, than when you are an adult.

          A kid makes the mistake of forgetting to wash his hands coming out of the bathroom...typical.
          An adult makes the mistake of forgetting to wash his hands coming out of the bathroom....yuckama :P

          We'll smile at the kid, but we'll look at the adult as negligent or lazy......or _____ (choose an adjective of your choice)
        • W T

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          May 30 2013: I had a thought.....don't you think that alot of it has to do with how mistakes by us were handled by our parents and teachers as we were growing up?

          Don't you think that we may well be affected by the way people around us reacted when we made a mistake?
      • May 30 2013: Mary, I absolutely DO.
        Kids are sponges, they learn by mimicking us, and adjusting their patterns to meet our expectations, really in order to survive. It's how we all learn, and it's how crazy family dynamics and life traps are created too. Even in our gestures, facial expression and body language, without saying a word, we are teaching our kids what is ok and what isn't. When somebody spills their milk in our house, it becomes a clean-up-game.
        I believe, by encouraging my kids to embrace their mistakes, and thus learn from them, I am helping them build self-esteem and strength in themselves.

        I realize, I interpreted the 'we' in your question to mean us as kids - was this what you meant?
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          May 31 2013: No, No, No, No.....YES!!! HaHa

          Lizanne, your observations are very important, I, like you, believe that when kids embrace mistakes and adults do not make a big deal out of them, but instead use them as teachable moments, then kids learn to embrace that they are not perfect.

          The sad part is, that many teachers might not be so kind.

          So it is VERY important to continue cultivating this kind of attitude towards mistakes, and at the same time instill a sense of responsibility and desire to always do their best in kids, and that when we are in doubt, ask questions.....our kids need to know that it is ok to ask questions.......adults need to know this also. Alot of people are afraid to ask questions, because they are afraid of being seen as "stupid".......and what is the alternative? Making a mistake!!!

          It's all interconnected.

          That reminds me of a time I got into a discussion with Ed Long about whether or not there was such a thing as a stupid question. I said that there is no such thing as a stupid question, and he kept trying to convince me that there are lots of stupid questions.

          I finally had to give in......because I realized I had been asked a stupid question one Friday night. The question?

          "Honey, do you want to cook, or do you want to eat out?"
      • May 31 2013: Mary, it's true - some parents also have trouble embracing mistakes. I see it often at school in the mornings, when I drop my kids off. It is fascinating to me, how my parenting technique can be so utterly different from someone else! My kids are both in the 'asking questions' phase. To be honest, I love it! It helps me learn about things too - forces me to break down complicated topics in a way that they can understand. My daughter asked me, how the engine of a car worked. I told her! And, after I checked my facts with my husband, it turned out, I was right!

        What a good topic, about the 'stupid questions'! I would also think, there is no such thing!
        I guess, asking someone a question they just gave you the answer to would be stupid, and perhaps classified as a 'mistake'... Asking my kids: 'Do you want to eat your broccoli'? also classifies as stupid.
        • May 31 2013: There is only one stupid question.... it's the one that's never asked.
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          May 31 2013: Be careful Lizanne, next thing you know, you'll be doing all the mechanical work on your car. LOL

          Here is another spin on mistakes made in questioning:

          True story: A middle school math teacher finishes explaining (for the umpteenth time) some complex geometric rule. And he says, "if after this explanation you still don't understand this concept, then your brain is made of rocks".

          Next thing you know, one student raises his hand, and the whole class bursts out in laughter. Everyone thinking he was going to ask a "stupid question"........turns out all he needed was to get permission to go to the bathroom. But based on that single moment in that student's life, he got the nickname ''rock" throughout the rest of his high school years.

          Many times, what we perceive, is not reality....

          If I ask my son "do you want to eat your broccoli?" he'll scream YES!! He loves broccoli.
          Now, fish and lentils......yuckoma.
      • Jun 1 2013: Oh, Mary! Jumping to conclusions is a topic worthy of a conversation of its own!!! What an interesting, and heart-breaking, example! Poor kid... I suppose there are worse nicknames, though. If you didn't know the back story, 'Rock' could also imply strength and confidence, a masculine jock-type character - but that would be jumping to a conclusion, wouldn't it...?

        Oh, our car is safe...for now. But you're right, I better keep my ego in check before I get too excited...!

        edit - I just realized, your example of 'Rock' made a mistake by raising his hand at that moment. He could've anticipated, that the class would assume he was asking about the geometric rule, couldn't he? Was it a mistake, or just poor timing... or both?
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          Jun 1 2013: Aha!! So you read my story, but then realized that you had not understood, and came back and edited. Well, I'm glad you figured it out.

          And yes, I think it was more of "poor timing", than a mistake.
          The poor fellow was probably waiting until the teacher finished his explanation to interrupt.

          And yes, yes,....keep your ego in check. LOL
    • May 31 2013: Negligence or Fraud.... Lizanne? Been looking at the banking industry have we :)
      • May 31 2013: Hmm, those terms do go hand in hand, don't they...!
        • Jun 1 2013: When will people finally get it - they don't go hand in hand... it's all one hand.

          Goodness only knows what the other hand is doing or planning.
    • Jun 1 2013: I don't feel that children are allowed mistakes much more than adults; they are all learning which should never end.
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    May 30 2013: There is uncertainty about what happens when we fail. And as we grow older, we eventually have an empirical observation that mistakes can deprive us of what we currently have (job, money, time, freedom, trust, or even life). Taken together, these lead to fear of failure.
    Another reason that people are unwilling to dare to take a risk is the lack of motivation and incentive. When people are feeling comfortable with their present situations and little can be obtained by accomplishing something, they won't tackle a new challenge so that they never make a mistake.
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      May 30 2013: In the end of your explanation you state:

      "they won't tackle a new challenge so that they never make a mistake".

      This sounds like Pride...............perhaps people who are not afraid of making mistakes are humble?
      • May 30 2013: To me, that phrase also sounds like creating a sense of 'security'... If you never take a risk, you never risk failure, right?
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          May 30 2013: Right!!

          Earlier I was thinking that the biggest mistake one could make in life, is to be afraid of making a mistake.

          I remember from a conversation long long ago here on TED about fear, that someone made the connection between fear, and total paralysis.

          Perhaps there are varying degrees of fear.
          Perhaps our brain, if not in balance, could make us think that the best choice/decision is not to make choices/decisions.

          Again, another complex conversation about a multi-layered topic.....lots and lots to discuss here Lizanne.

          Oh that I had time to sit and type and ask questions of each of the TEDsters posting.

          Simply speaking, I feel that there is not one answer to the OP's question.

          As they say

          I'll come back later and add some more thoughts.

          Mary :)
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          May 31 2013: I think mindset does matter, as both of you suggested. Greedy people tend to pursue an apparently appropriate choice to maximize their nearsighted benefits. This converges in a rather conservative strategy even though it might look offensive to others, and such people will never admit their mistakes because doing so will shatter their honor and pride. In contrast inquisitive persons are inclined to try something new, and when faced with a difficulty, they humbly accept the fact.
      • Jun 1 2013: You could also add fear to that list.

        Fear of losing what they have accumulated, fear of having to start again.

        But conversely that fear can be a good thing, because it makes you balance the equation.

        Every wonder why there are more younger drunk drivers than others age groups? Diverging a bit into neuroscience, which has a fair part to play.
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          Jun 1 2013: Ok, why? Why are there more younger drunk drivers than other age groups?

          And although fear plays a role, I don't think it is fear that keeps people from trying new ideas or taking initiatives at work.

          I think it has to do with getting away with the minimum effort.
          Why work more if you don't have to.
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      May 31 2013: Yes, mindset is definitely a part of it all.

      I also think by mindset, we may even include "personality type" as well.

      I have seen enough TED videos on psychology, and read enough books, to realize that certain individuals go through life thinking a certain way due to their personality.

      I will stop there. I don't want to open pandora's box.

      Thank you for the reply and the insightful explanation Tomoshige.
    • Jun 1 2013: Sad for those poor, stagnant people; like mice on a treadmill.
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    May 30 2013: Because mistakes =

    getting fired, getting thrown in jail, flunking, getting divorced, going bankrupt, being homeless, being embarrassed, getting beat up, not being liked, failing, getting deported =


    Most people don't want to be dead
    • May 30 2013: you're right. i guess then the problem is not the mistakes themselves, but the overreactions of people who seem to have gotten the idea that the person did something wrong on purpose. come to think of it i did have a boss like that once, when something i tried didn't turn out well he just couldn't for the life of him see that of course i was going for a better outcome. thankfully the current one is able to see the wider picture and understands that when a person is trying to do something better than it ever has been done before, it's impossible to know if anything has been overlooked.
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        May 30 2013: Isn't that a core belief in Japan?

        Constant improvement and that there is no perfect way as with Ford?

        But it does require a different attitude, I could see your old bosses attitude if he were just trying to get the company policy implemented. In the U.S. if some one stopped the assembly line they probably get fired, at Toyota it is almost encouraged.
        • May 31 2013: no actually. the japanese are especially terrified of trying anything new because of the risk it implies. thankfully i get away with doing it because i'm not japanese and are safely designated as 'different'. i had a japanese colleague once who got into trouble by trying to improve his lessons.

          the whole story (skip if you're not interested!) was i used to work in retail. one of our suppliers always had his goods ready on a friday and i had them picked up by courier. it was always a huge pain because everyone wants couriers on fridays so they were always late. once i decided to call the company on thursday afternoon, to get our courier order "locked in" for the following day, thinking that'd mean we had a safe spot reserved and others would come next. actually what happened was that put our order on the bottom of the pile so the courier didn't even show up by closing time. to my boss i'd caused an order to be missed, the fact that i was trying to ensure a better delivery schedule from then on to avoid our usual friday delay, and that i couldn't possibly have known the courier would let later orders in before mine just didn't come into it. i distinctly remember asking "but you can see what i was trying to do though right?" and he answered "no."
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          May 31 2013: Surely that's a crucial philosophy of Japan's manufacturing industry that impeled the remarkable postwar economic growth, and as a Japanese I'm proud of it. But that belief is merely our tatemae now. Our honne is that we don't want to be eliminated from the community where we belong. All employees are eager to just maintain their own value that is normally assessed by the human resources department and the boss, thereby following their bosses' instruction which is product improvement for instance. If they fail to improve, it is considered to be a mistake and they will be penalized. Once fired, no company is willing to employ that person, in order for the job applicant not to make a mistake again and damage the company's revenue. This kind of fail-safe concept is prevalent in Japan. In a factory a production lane would be suspended upon detecting a disorder because if a company shipped defective products to the market, the government and consumers would blame the manufacturer.
          Japan is dominated by immobilism, in which a small and single mistake can be fatal. It could be surrounding people and circumstances that make one afraid of making a mistake.
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        May 31 2013: I ask because I'm a huge fan of Lean manufacturing or the Toyota Production System. Which I thought was ubiquitous in Japan.

        A Lean company would not have the disposition you describe. They would encourage more such activities for the very reason you describe. Check out any of a gazillion sites about Lean or TPS
        • May 31 2013: i'm not sure about how lean manufacturing is applied in other places, but i do know a few people who've worked for toyota. unfortunately the way they reach their goals is basically by throwing their weight around. for example they have a no returns policy on parts to supplied to their dealers who are not wholly owned. this of course is illegal, even in japan there's an official cooling-off period to allow for things like mistakes and miscommunications, so a dealer could actually insist that toyota accept the returned part, but then the dealer would get cut out of price-cut deals, find a lot more paperwork when renewing the franchise etc.

          also the japanese have a different idea of what consitutes waste. to them it's almost an all or nothing kind of thing, like when there's a company meeting everyone has to attend even if nothing related to your particular job is going to be discussed. to them, any employee one day might have something to add, and anyway when discussing new policy all votes are taken (even from people in other departments who won't be affected by any change), so even though to us having people sitting there doing nothing is a waste, to them it isn't, because if something is used even slightly then it's not waste.

          there's also a very telling proverb in japanese: "the nail that sticks up must be hammered down"
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        May 31 2013: I can find bad stuff about any company. The question is are what they are doing working or not. Your anecdotal ideas do not reflect the big picture on this. I can counter many stories of how TPS has worked, so that is a waste of time.

        Again a Lean company would not have the disposition you described with your company, especially Toyota. The reality is they are one of the most successful companies in history.
        • May 31 2013: oh sure i wasn't trying to say it was particularly bad, just that the words they use to describe their ideas have different meanings to what we'd expect. both i and my wife have toyotas actually! as for the results, it works but it doesn't. they are the most successful car company exactly because they don't allow anything new or revolutionary, and so we get perfectly made cars that never break down, but certainly aren't pushing any envelopes either. we see the difference in european (and i think american too?) cars that are moving to carbon fiber because it's better than steel, while japanese car companies are currently working on improving the refinement process to get better steel to make their cars with.

          to me 'improve' means find something or some way better and adopt it - a change, but here in japan 'improve' means to find a refinement - make the same thing in the same way as before but tweak it, for example an improvement would be checking 5 times instead of 3 to make absolutely sure there are no imperfections. i wonder which side you regard 'improve' as being? changing to something better, or doing something more thoroughly and precisely to ensure the exact same product but with fewer imperfections?
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        May 31 2013: Have read the story of how Toyota created Lexus? or the story of the joint venture with GM in Freemont. Those stories are the antithesis of what you are saying. Also consider that Toyota how successful they are in quality and profitability. This does not add up? Your stories seem anecdotal.
        • May 31 2013: i know it well. it's a spin-off of toyota. all lexus cars were toyotas here until very recently. they have an absolutely huge range so the company is divided into 4 - toyota, toyota netz, toyota corolla, and toyopet, all of which sold different models of toyota. overseas though not all models are made and sold, so the higher-end cars were rebadged as lexus.

          that toyota is successful in quality and profitability is exactly what i'm saying. i'm also saying that they make very little progress, and contrary to what you believe, they are not pushing any boundaries or encouraging development, but insist in rigid adherence to established methods, refining but not advancing.

          the information i gave you about the japanese mindset isn't anecdotal, i've lived in japan over 10 years now and met many of the execs of the local car factories and parts suppliers when they came in for english lessons before being sent off to germany and the US.

          did you follow what i explained about the 2 different definitions of improvement? i asked you which you would have in mind when you hear the word 'improvement' and would like your answer?
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        May 31 2013: Tomoshige

        Your story also sounds anecdotal? No doubt any company has peccadilloes. Lets compare the Japanese tatemae (culture?) to the American culture.

        The biggest car company in the U.S. was GM, in order to protect their jobs the GM workers formed a union. This union bankrupted the company which would be gone now if not for government corruption that stole from the American taxpayer.

        I don't think Toyota allows unions and even when they did with the GM joint venture they modified the work rules (union policies on what workers could do) that were so onerous to GM. The book I read about Toyota told a story of the Freemont Calif plant that had the worst quality and lowest production of any of GM's plants after the Toyota system was in place some time later it was literally the highest production with the highest quality. They reported that the morale of the employees was never higher, this may sound anecdotal but the fact is morale and production are synonymous.

        I would say it is worse to be unemployed than to suffer under policies that seem harsh.

        As far as immobilism goes I would contend that government interference is the biggest problem in Japan. The goverment propping up GM in this country as well as the big banks is what stops economic progress as the economy develops in new ways and creates jobs which are at the expense of the old ways because investment goes where it is treated best.

        In other words if a company makes buggy whips they will disappear with the advent of cars. The car manufacturer sell stock or bonds that have a better return than the ones from the buggy manufacturer. Government often interferes with this natural process always to the economies' detriment.

        I don't know how much the keiretsu contributes to the above but I'm sure that it also is a factor.
        • May 31 2013: actually almost all workers in japan are unionised, though they don't really need it because they are all eligible for company housing and every employee receives a bonus 3 times a year not just the execs.

          the government doesn't interfere at all in japan, not beyond monetary policy anyway (recently they've been trying to weaken the yen to help exports) which is for all business not just car companies. where did you get the idea that the japanese government interferes?
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          Jun 1 2013: I guess you're talking of Toyota as a whole organization because a single author would never be able to investigate all the 300,000 Toyota employees, but looking at individual employees provides a different impression. Most of the Toyota workers are just dealing with their routine tasks rather than desperately seeking ways of improvement. If the Pareto principle applies to this case (which appears plausible), 80% of Toyota's corporate activity including the improvement processes is made by 20% of all the employees. The rest are just trying to stick with the company because as you said, unemployment is critical. I think this was also the case with GM, driving the automotive giant to a wrong direction.
          But retrospective inspection of this kind is easy whereas prospective prediction is extremely difficult. Everyone admires Toyota and criticizes GM because Toyota is successful now while GM is not. A couple of decades back, however, how many people expected GM's (and perhaps Kodak's as well?) bankruptcy? I have once read a book entitled “Everything Is Obvious *Once You Know the Answer,” in which the author Duncan Watts explores how we can fall into circular reasoning and how commonsense explanations can fail. Now we know that Toyota sits at the top of the automotive industry pyramid and that the GM union was to blame, but few people knew these facts prior to the events. Likewise bailouts were made shortly after the 1991 bubble burst in Japan and the 2008 financial crisis in the US, because the Japanese and the US governments at that moment thought it would be the only way to avoid worse scenarios. Outcomes are unclear until they become clear. Sometimes an apparently best-looking effort can later turn out to be a sheer blunder. Such uncertainty complicates the definition of a mistake, particularly in complex worlds like business and economy where replication of an event is almost impossible.
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        May 31 2013: It is my understanding that Toyota in the U.S. is not unionized.

        I got the idea by reading about the "lost decades". My understanding is that there was a burst bubble followed by the government bailing out bankrupt companies. Did you see my post above? They are doing the same thing in the U.S. and it will lead to the same stagnate result.

        Yup all they do in this country is control monetary policy as well...

        In reference to your other post I like both methods of improvement. The analogy I like is the U.S. is a top down Henry Ford culture and Japan is more bottom up. Both methods are necessary, I find the Japanese method interesting and effective
        • Jun 3 2013: oh really? interesting how the same company philosophy in words is applied differently in each country.

          the lost decades were mostly a result of over-investment and a lot of loans went bad. the government intervention was limited to adding regulation to banks to ensure they couldn't hand out credit so easily, and a huge public works spending program intended to pull the country back to normal. there was no interference with companies, including bailouts.

          i agree that the japanese method is interesting and effective, but it certainly doesn't encourage employees to think of new ways and experiment. it's not just toyota really but a whole social thing., people are expected to avoid deviation from 'the way'.
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        Jun 1 2013: Tomoshige

        Maybe the Pareto principle applies, I don't know, but 20% is better than 1%? Which is the main point I look at which is eliminating waste, and especially with the top down approach beating workers down into automatons is the biggest waste of all. As all but the most myopic see that humans have infinite potential not using that potential to everyone's benefit is the biggest waste of all.

        As far as predicting the outcome of GM I will have to disagree. When you have a board of directors who are nothing more than sycophants who allow the CEO (Rodger Smith) to squander huge amounts of money on robots or not to use actuarial data showing the effect of labor contracts in the future or to develop a K car that nobody buys or to joint venture with Toyota only to ignore the profound lessons. Then to be bailed out by the Taxpayers to boot. This is egregious bad management.

        As to the government bailouts, again I have to disagree, government intervention always creates bubbles in these matters and the out come is very predictable.

        There is an element to this that I will concede and that is that cultures have a tendency to continue the activities that lead to their previous sucess which makes them blind to more objective approaches. E.G. The U.S. will likely never have another deflation as it was so traumatic during the great depression, likewise Germany will likely never have another inflation as it was so traumatic in the 30s. The U.S. companies like to hit home runs as that it what worked for them in the past Japanese companies are more nimble and adapt and innovate an example is Sharp industries that took LCD to a world class level when it was a discard for Bell labs. Toyota is another example of this empirically speaking their product was crap in the 70s. But that does not excuse myopia.
        • Jun 3 2013: i agree, and supporting bad companies only ensures there's no room for better companies to rise to take their place.

          as for japanese companies being more nimble and adept though, i don't think anything could be further from reality. japanese companies tend to be more resilient because they never reach too far. they fail to adapt and often get left in the dust, but have sufficient reserves to catch up. a good example is the smartphone industry, with all these giant electronics firms you'd think some of them would be producing smartphones, but nope, they're all still focused on old tech and it's left many of them with huge losses. i think both sony and panasonic posted record losses this year. they kept making LCD panels even when they could only sell them at loss - they couldn't adapt and move on.

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          Jun 3 2013: I'm not sure how many people are able to prophesy the future (not just some particular cases) to what extent, but one clear thing is that we have to embrace the uncertainty that is tied to any of our activity though some people shun this fact. Sorry if you got me wrong, but my point is same as yours; in order to stay away from the unexpectable, myriad politicians and big companies' board members are following the precedents despite the circumstances changing perpetually. They just want an excuse to protect their position. This is what I called immobilism.
          But due to volatility some similar attempts can end up with a different consequence. Sharp is a good example that indicates trying to avoid mistakes by following the precedents could be a mistake itself. Until several years ago Sharp used to flourish with the outstanding LCD sales, but ironically Sharp's portfolio is deteriorating now due to the over-invested LCD production facilities and cumulative debts. And conversely an apparent mistake could be a source of success. Think of Viagra. At first Phizer tried to develop it as an anti-angina but suspended the development due to its low effect. It turned out, however, to have an adverse effect that stimulates erection, and now Viagra represents a high sales as an anti-erectile dysfunction. Thus viewing the world through a different lens can open up a new possibility.
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        Jun 3 2013: This is good. I learned something about the screen technology LCD verses OLED seems similar to MRI?

        I think you are speaking about the cultures of the two different countries. When you speak of cultures you are speaking of agreements these agreements are the reality of the culture. Things like Japanese don't get upset Americans want to hit a home run & the individual is the hero, in Japan it is more of a team effort? Both work. But I would be inclined to give the edge to the Japanese method. The reason boils down to being interested or interesting the American tend to be interesting which is a handicap. You see this in a lot of celebrities as they abandon the interested part once that have celebrity. Thomas Edison and direct current, Henry Ford and offering different options like colors, this damn near killed both enterprises. Elvis Presley and drugs, being interesting literally killed him. In either case a company needs the leader to create the goal, the vision, this is Stephan Jobs and every bit as much Kiichiro Toyoda or Akio Morita.

        From what I have seen of TPS it is definitely creative at eliminating waste. Sharp industries going from a couple of dozen employees to 10s of thousands based of a throw away are very creative. Toyota itself creating Lexus or assembly lines that had different types of cars on the same assembly line is the extremely creative. So I have to disagree on that point.

        But complacency might be the enemy of both?

        The thing to know about the economy is that investment in small business is what creates prosperity and over investment ends it. This is the nature of the economy, booms and depressions, it is SELF correcting, the only time this is a problem is when government interferes with this natural process as Japan and the U.S. are currently doing. The result is 2 lost decades for Japan and at least one for the U.S.

        The other thing to know about this is the politicians only care about elections and reelection, not the economy.
        • Jun 3 2013: sure it really does eliminate waste and produce good quality goods, but it does that by discouraging innovation, which was my original point.

          complacency being the problem makes a lot of sense to me, nice one!

          still the japanese government isn't interfering, they haven't and they didn't. the first downturn came about because of insufficient regulation; money was handed out willynilly to everyone by banks who were trying to capitalise on surging growth, and this resulted in loads of bad investments and loans that couldn't be repaid. the economy has been much more stable since new laws were passed that insisted banks do adequate checks before making loans.
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        Jun 3 2013: You are not listening:

        The Japanese government is doing the same crap as this country is doing, they have been softening the downturn of over investment by propping up business that should be gone. They have been doing this for 20 years. At what point do you say this doesn't work? Not that the U.S. is any smarter they did this for 15 years during the great depression and out no doubt going to do it at least until 2016 which will make 8 yr plus Bush did it for at least a year or so. I remember I wrote my congressman at the TARP and said don't do it,. he wrote back and said TBTF, and he is a "Republican" (2 sides of the same coin) So we will have the whole country fail instead.

        Once again:

        The thing to know about the economy is that investment in small business is what creates prosperity and over investment ends it. This is the nature of the economy, booms and depressions, it is SELF correcting, the only time this is a problem is when government interferes with this natural process as Japan and the U.S. are currently doing. The result is 2 lost decades for Japan and at least one for the U.S.

        The other thing to know about this is the politicians only care about elections and reelection, not the economy.
        • Jun 3 2013: i'm listening fine, i hear you say the japanese government is propping up businesses, but they're not. there are import tariffs on things like rice and beef, but that's it. i completely agree that it doesn't work, and that doesn't change the fact that the japanese government aren't involved in it.
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      May 31 2013: not sure what mistakes you have in mind, but if i send the wrong invoice to a customer, i won't get killed, deported, not even fired. but i may be afraid to do it because i may not get a raise because of it. or my colleagues will think that i'm not a "professional"

      so i guess what you're trying to say is that we're afraid of some kind of punishment
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        May 31 2013: It is relative, to a sane person a mistake is no big deal, a less sane person it is worrisome, an insane person it is a big deal
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      Jun 1 2013: I think that your statement covers the moral stage most of us are in. It is hard sometimes to admit you are wrong and hard to say I am sorry and hard to rectify a wrong is what I believe. Somehow we see that as being weak.
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        Jun 1 2013: Not to much morality to survival?
  • Jun 29 2013: because people are cruel creatures! ... !
  • Jun 28 2013: Society has taught us that mistakes are bad and one is only good if one wins or succeeds. The road to success however, relies on failures along the way. This is the core of design-thinking and should be taught globally. People afraid of failing or making mistakes will live lives dictated by others.
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    Jun 27 2013: We are afraid of mistakes because we get pounded for them as children and as adults. We don't want to "learn from our mistakes" we want to learn everything up front and do everything flawlessly! I think the resolution (if there is one) is to become able to distinguish what is and isn't a mistake. Some things get labeled as mistakes when they really are just a feature of the learning process, like striking the wrong keys when you are learning to play the piano or tripping over your feet when you are learning to dance. We are often as afraid of those as we are of screwing up a big project at work, which is a legitimate thing to fear.
  • Jun 27 2013: in my opinion as much as we do mistakes as much as we can learn and have experience "mistakes" are useful but we must be careful in making it coz there is some mistakes lets us feeling bad and we may lose people we love
  • Jun 24 2013: We don’t want to admit that we’re humans, yet we’re human beings.
    Perhaps we hate to admit we’re silly at times.

    Our pride and timid attitude toward ‘Life’ are the ones that prevent us from giving it a shot and trying again.
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    Jun 24 2013: Scientists mistakes should be anothers, because normally scientists monitor all in their field and usually don`t do simple mistakes covered by anothers. Also trivial mistakes. That`s why they celebrate it! A new opened mistake becomes new result to everyone in that field!
    In normal life people made mistakes another way. Who want to do multiply mistakes and be unsble to stop it? Who want to make a stupid one?.. Nobody. Based on poor information or experience many mistakes could be avoided. On the other hand, mistakes based on one`s internal structure, is relly good indicator and could turn people to chenge.
    Also I realized several mistakes we should do in order to overcome it and then help anothers. It seems we somehow prepared to do such mistakes. Because the same way as scientists, the world seems waiting how we make a solution. My own example I described here right about it - the mistake and then the solution, I hope, will be helpful to many others. That kind of mistakes make us a scientists, an investigators of the part of life we responsible on.
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    Jun 24 2013: I was thinking about this on my walk today.

    I am a brand new Teacher, this being my first year of supply teaching and it's been a great experience for me because I sucked at it the first few times I was called in. I freely admit that to you and to the students who were present because I think that it's important to not be ashamed of making mistakes, making the wrong choice, just basically learning by doing....What was great about the experience was that, when I'd mess up, the kids were very sympathetic and we all realised that we don't get things right the first time often and the pressure and atmosphere was very low key in those situations.

    Contrast this with my doing what is known in Teacher's College as a "Prac"....Practical application of the courses at Colege. One Prac was with a very old school Teacher who wanted to know my plans for the entire 2 month session, in all 5 of my subject areas and the lesson plans... So, you're talking about 5 Unit plans and 75-90 lesson her hands...So, obviously, my plans were as concise as possible, but she was very rigid and whenever I'd modify my lessons to accomodate the mood of the class, she would remind me that I needed to stay on schedule with my, if it was Wednesday of Week three, I better be teaching lesson 15 in Grade Five Science on Electricity and the students better be on track with their understanding. I never left the front of the class and the students sat in their desks all 50 minutes of the period...It SUCKED and so did their test scores

    The next Prac? My Unit plans were 1/3 of the precision, My lesson plans were mere outlines and we had impromptu discussions and the classes flowed far more organically...and they aced the Units...
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    Gord G

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    Jun 24 2013: Mistakes are a learning experience in an academic setting, but in a competitive environment mistakes are the tender under belly of success. We move ahead by being more right than the other person.

    Fewer mistakes...fewer uncertainties...fewer unproductive conclusions leads to advancement. It has always been the utility of information that has sustained economies, not the pursuit of absolutes.
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    Jun 19 2013: Afraid of the unintended consequences
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    Jun 19 2013: Here is another TED talk on the matter by Kathrun Schulz. On Being Wrong
  • Jun 19 2013: Perfection and the laziness to do it all over again.
    And i think because people more easily to remember our mistakes than the good one about us.

    *btw I'm currently afraid making mistakes of what I
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    Jun 17 2013: Scientists make mistakes all the time. And they make them on purpose! When they do experiments, they sometimes find out that either their theories were wrong, or they were partly wrong. When that happens, it feels like a mistake. It always feels better to be right. And to be proven right is the best of all.

    But scientists learn as much from their mistakes as they do from their successes. In fact, for a scientist, testing a mistaken theory is the only way to ever find the correct theory, that will ultimately lead to a scientific breakthrough.
  • Jun 13 2013: In my opinion,in the nawady,there are too many reasons for us to be afraid of makeing mstakes,the fundamental issue is profit,profit controls huge amount of people and influence their thinking,of course there are also some people afraid of making mistakes cuz they worry about their reputation,this is very general phenomena that is existing in academia,or someone who is on a very important position who always care about his own reputation.From my point of view,mistake should be tolerated.Let me quote Sir Ken Robinson's words"i am not saying to be wrong is the same thing to be creative,but if we do not prepare to be wrong,we never come up with anything original",and by the way let me have a short self-introduction,i am a Chinese young man,i am 31 years old,living in main land of China right now,i am very much interested in Science and a scientific way of future,i support of zeitgeistmovement and thevenusproject lol,my English skill is not good,so there were many mistakes existing in my sentences also lol ,am i making mistakes too :P
  • Jun 9 2013: I am a physician by training. I can say that scientist have programmed their minds that the best way to find the best results are by testing little experiments, called mistakes in the general population. Based on our world school system we have been programmed since children not to make mistakes, they they are bad, so as adults people don not want to make mistakes, because this mean to be ridiculed by others or the easy target of people comments. "If we do not make mistakes, we will never learn".
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    Jun 8 2013: Kathryn Schulz speak about embracing our mistaken in this her second TEDTalk.

    "Here's the thing, if we have goals and dreams, and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don't want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn't to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them."
  • Jun 7 2013: I believe that there is a link between the risk taking and rewarding of decision. This is linked to the development of our brains. I recommend this talk that might shed light on the enquiry.

    Also Ken Robinson TED Talk about 'School Kills Creativity.

    Let me know your thoughts :)


  • Jun 6 2013: I think our society focuses so much on perfection in everything (relationships, body image, vocation) that the allowance for error is perceived as crushingly small. It seems as though "mistakes" used to be something to be expected in any respectable profession. Mistakes were just undiscovered inventions. These days, with the advent of anonymity due to social media, the world is acutely aware of what is "un-accomplished". There is so much more beauty in the process and perhaps the mistake.
  • Jun 5 2013: Simply because we are not prepared to make them!
  • W T

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    Jun 5 2013: I think another good question, after reading many of the comments here is:

    Why are we not afraid to make mistakes?

    It would be interesting to compare contributions.

    I would like to share a quote from the book I am reading "Being Wrong" (K Schulz) page 121-122:

    "....a fundamental lesson of inductive reasoning...our mistakes are part and parcel of our brilliance, not the regrettable consequences of a separate and deplorable process......Believing something on the basis of messy, sparse, limited information really is how we err. But it is also how we think. What makes us right is what makes us wrong."
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    Jun 5 2013: I think it's because of the failed education system. I think we should all start making mistakes and keep sharing them with the world. So the rest of the world knows why shouldn't or should they try the same mistake.
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    Jun 5 2013: From my point of view, in the society that we are leaving now you can’t afford to loose time in making mistakes. Because the way of leaving it is to full of aggressive competencies, is you don’t accomplish the goals you don’t have a job and you can’t eat. And because that constant state of alert or afraid, you in most of the opportunities will follow the already establish steps, avoiding creative and new ways of working, ways that can be found only by investigating and error.
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    Jun 4 2013: mistakes reveal the unknown. not all can deal with the unknown. it is a scary world out there but, those that deal gracefuly with defeat are the true champions.
  • Jun 4 2013: We hide our mistakes because this world is very competitive. Well basically, if you are not Number 1, you do not really get acknowledged by other people. Of Course you still do get acknowledged, but people who are at top of anything are ones that gets most of the things. We are afraid to show off our mistakes and tell others that they made mistakes because then their "ranks" will drop down, resulting in lower social status.
    Although I believe making mistakes is a good way of learning. By making mistakes, you can learn about your downfalls and work on it. However, it is a sad reality how people get evaluated of their pefectioness and etcetc...
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    Jun 3 2013: This one is actually easy. Scientists enjoy making mistakes, but only in private. Scientists use the scientific method. And although there is no universally agreed upon series, these are the general steps in the methodology.

    1. Observation 2. Hypothesis 3. Experimentation 4. Analysis 5. Repeat/Publish

    A scientist will observe natural phenomena in terms of presently accepted theories. A scientist will continue to observe until an unanswered question arises or an apparent inconsistency in present theory is discovered. A hypothesis is developed and tested. Collected data is analyzed. And observation begins again in light of the new analysis. Thus far, nothing is publishable. Because this is the point where mistakes are made. Theories are proven wrong. Hypotheses, once tested, are often either dumped outright or modified and tested again and again. And still nothing is publishable.

    It is only when this process produces an new result that sheds new light on existing knowledge, that science can go to publication. Nobody gets a Nobel Prize for theories and ideas that didn't work. They get the big prize for the ideas that DID work.

    No one is ashamed of the ideas that did not work. It is just that bad ideas don't gain you anything. It is the new ideas that work and make new exploration possible. Those are the fundamental discoveries of science that make new kinds of engineering and consumer products possible.
  • Jun 3 2013: In my opinion the reason we hide our failures is society, fame, greed, envy and pride.

    I think part of the reason why we don't want to admit mistakes or even risk making them, is losing face. When people know you make mistakes, you might lose your place in a hierarchy. Even if that is not the case, what people see and experience in their daily life is exactly that. People who fail are not celebrated or supported, they are made responsible for their mistakes and lose part of their honor for failing. We still blame people for failing instead of blaming them for not trying. For example surgeons have to watch their own success/fail statistic.

    If you fail to often your career is at risk. This results in declines of high risk or risk patients. Worse statistics mean worse career, so you don't take the risk and stick to the easier problems resulting in a lot of people who don't get a fighting chance because no one is willing to take the risk.

    In other lines of business people stick to the same routines for ages, because if a new method fails or doesn't show better results coworkers, employers or family might make fun of them or mob them. They might even lose their jobs. Often new ways are not better in the first place, because old ways are trained, learned, perfected and new ways still have those flaws that all new inventions have.

    ‘The nail that sticks out gets hammered down’. Doing something different might get you a lot of negative attention. Frequently inventors are treated like crazy people. More so if they fail frequently. It took Edison over 1.000 tries to create a working light bulb. After he made it people acknowledged his success, if he didn't people of his time would have called him a failure.

    And then there is the immediate danger of someone using your mistakes to have success. It's not nice to see someone learn out of your mistakes, save a lot of time and money and get what could have been yours.

    I think we need to change our opinion towards failure.
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    Jun 3 2013: We will make mistakes , can not avoid it.
    What we can ,is not to be afraid of making mistakes.
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    Jun 2 2013: Well, I think you nailed it with
    "While i'm not sure that all scientists share their mistakes so that others can learn form them, i was wondering why we're afraid to make mistakes at work, for instance? Is it because we are told that mistakes are not tolerated? Could it be our education, from our family and school, that mistakes should be avoided at all cost or hidden when they happen?"

    It's all of the above.
  • Jun 2 2013: We afraid to make mistakes because of the credibility of the person is on stake. The trust which has been build up over a period of time goes away with the mistakes.
    We feel like letting down the person standing by us.

    we need to understand the type of mistakes.
    1 - Inevitable(more related to sysem failure)
    2 - Evitable(human error)

    The root cause of all mistakes is some purpose behind it no matter if they are evitable or inevitable. Mistakes surely leads to failure but for short term. In long term mistakes done by us become the building blocks and help us to grow, mature and experienced human being.
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    Jun 2 2013: I am not sure just how to take your comment .
  • Jun 1 2013: I guess it is because it is believed we would be sued and sacked from our jobs !

    In medical negligence cases a doctor would never say sorry because its admission of a mistake and liable for legal action. I think sometimes there should be a medical commissioner to find mistakes and why and make sure never happens again. In same breath make compensation fit the 'mistake' properly. Would then not allow the Lawyers to claim millions for some.

    Seems unfair and dependent on what kind of lawyer you can afford. Some aggrevied get everything, others get nothing !

    Complaints are a way of making things better overall. A marketing company said to listen to your complaints if you want to better your business.
  • Jun 1 2013: Another reason may be due to the limited time we have. We are living in a fast-pace society, meeting deadlines all the time. We are afraid to make mistake especially at work place because it takes time to correct and revise. Given the limited time we have, we cannot afford the time for mistake. As such, we may be more conservative, less creative in order to avoid making mistake.
  • Jun 1 2013: because we believe in shame. we believe were bad and mistakes prove it. which is why we don't like to own up to mistakes, they seem to "prove" something bad about us, but remember that is only a MIND GAME. if one were to go beyond mind, into the 2nd mind (in the belly, proven scientific fact) and sat in there with our attention, our ability to know universal truth (in our goodness) would have a chance to connect through us- we would experience peace and trust and know that shame (given rise to exploring the mistakes) actually harbors a LIE. and our goodness would be felt along with relief.
    Sir Ken Robinsons' talk on Schools Kill Creativity is addresses our culture's need to identify all too quickly why were wrong-to our detriment. He tells a wonderful story about a dancer who almost wasn't birthed (if A.D.D. meds were given).
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    • Jun 1 2013: consequences for our actions sounds so punishment orientated-unsafe and scary. I'm wondering if you'd like to consider more ways of thinking about mistakes? would you be interested in understanding them from a perspective that gave you understanding of yourself and others? If so, Non-Violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg is WONDERFUL. or Speak Peace in a World of Conflict is too...of course there is youtube videos.
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    Jun 1 2013: I will tell you that I know first hand why I personally am afraid to make mistakes. Because I disappoint myself. I started a business several years back. I gave a couple of people jobs because they needed them so badly, not because they were qualified. I thought that I was doing the good and moral thing - something I would want someone to do for me. I was let down terribly and even robbed by some. I saw this as my mistake and beat myself up for it. So I corrected that and then when my business began to make money, instead of putting it away, I reinvested in the business, purchasing a company vehicle and stocking supplies, only to find myself with a very serious illness shortly thereafter and unable to either work at the business or even manage it. The result was the destruction of the business, the repossession of the vehicle and the loss of jobs for my eight employees. As the medical bills rolled in, there was nothing put away, and I was forced to leave the home that I married my husband in, raised my son in, and felt so proud of. All because of my mistake in spending the money instead of putting it away for a rainy day. I just didn't think it would rain that hard. This was ten years ago and I beat myself up to this day over it. I am now in remission for three years. I have not started a business back up because I am so terrified of making more mistakes. I am on the floor, and I find that you can't fall off of the floor. Please understand that I am thankful for my husband who stood by and helped nurse me back to health, my son who just received his Ph.D, and the home we now live in, which is much smaller, but is warm, clean and peaceful. My point is, while no body could have predicted that I would get ill, and hindsight is 20/20, my mistakes have caused so much pain in my own mind that I dare not stand up and try again because it scares me to death to fall.
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    Jun 1 2013: Is trying to avoid mistakes same as being afraid to make mistakes?
    • Jun 1 2013: imho they are different
    • W T

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      Jun 1 2013: I second that!!
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    May 30 2013: I completely agree with komal kaur , we are free to make mistakes and share them unless and untill they are related to others. But when we are at our work place or something related, we are not free to share our mistake or we try our best to hide our mistake from others. This is because of the fear that people may not trust us later. In the present competition world even a very small mistake made by us may put our job at risk , this may be one of the big reason that we try to hide our mistakes at our work place.
    • W T

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      May 30 2013: Yes, BUT......if you are caught....then isn't the fact that you lied or hid your mistake, an even greater mistake that could have greater repercussions?
      • May 31 2013: I think you need to ask a politician/king/emperor - bank - that question. But the answer as seen is for the most part it does not matter, as with the banks, they are not the ones who pay the price.
        • W T

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          May 31 2013: :o

          No argument from me there.

          I thought perhaps your original answer was more on a personal level.
          I was looking for insight into your view.
          So then, when you say "we" are not free to share our mistake or "we" try our best to hide our mistake from others, the "we" does not include you?

          You were just speaking in general about corporations and governments?

          [Edited] I am coming back to add that I don't think banks and governments are afraid of making mistakes. What they are afraid of is getting caught lying to us. Their so called "mistakes", are usually well thought-out acts that leave the rest of us _____(choose an adjective of your choice)
        • W T

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          May 31 2013: I just read your first comment way down there.......

          And I see you originally said that you don't think people are afraid to make mistakes.
 I understand your view better.

          You have made some good contributions on this conversation Tify, thanks!!
      • Jun 1 2013: Thanks Mary.

        As for the "we" well lets just call it the royal "we", because for them it really does not matter in they 'include' themselves. :)
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    May 30 2013: Fear of being punished and reprimanded..

    Unfortunately our system supports punishments for mistakes.
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    May 30 2013: It is untrue that we are afraid to make mistakes in general. All depends on what's at stake. If it's life or career, then the fear may be justified.

    E.g. in quality control, when testing a product, there are two types of mistakes:
    1. Accepting a bad product and shipping it to the customer ("consumer's risk") and
    2. Rejecting a good product ("producer's risk")

    Consumer's risk is tolerated much less than producers risk. Possible consequences of sending a bad product to the customer include lost business, damage to company reputation, etc. Financially, it can mean millions of dollars and can never be estimated accurately. Producer will never know why a customer did not place the next order. Whereas consequences of rejecting a good product is limited to the cost of the rejected product. Contemplating between quality and test cost is a variation of the "greed vs. fear" struggle.

    Risks are often imaginary rather than real. E.g., I know many people who are afraid to push a wrong button on the computer keyboard. For such people learning computers is very stressful and slow.
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      May 31 2013: i'd like to know more about why you think that it's untrue that we are afraid to make you think that people are ok with making mistakes and don't think twice before doing something that may prove to be a mistake?
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        May 31 2013: Many great TED conversation topics lack context making it difficult to discuss. E.g., there are many topics discussing the meaning of freedom without clarifying "freedom from what". This article addresses this issue quite well There was a discussion called "when is it time to quit?" Again, quit what? Some said "never quit", some said "quit now". Both sides are right, but in different contexts. Colin Powell says "Kids need structure", Ken Robinson says "schools kill creativity" (with structure and discipline) - both are right, again in their own context.

        I see this issue with your question as well. General statements are rarely true. As I mentioned, some mistakes are fatal, some are trivial. Your premise is not true for all mistakes and all situations.
        • W T

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          Jun 1 2013: Arkady, what a wonderful contribution.

          I have been trying to relay the same thing with my poor vocabulary.

          Thank you.
        • Jun 1 2013: What about survival of the fittest? Or is that passe in "modern life"?
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        Jun 2 2013: @M-L Reifschneider

        Have you watched this?

        Dealing with noise in sensory feedback is all our brains evolved to do.

        It is impossible NOT to make mistakes given the "noise" in all signals we receive and limitations of our sensory abilities. Continuously detecting and correcting mistakes is how we do EVERYTHING - walking, bringing a cup of coffee to our mouth, and launching spaceships. As we get more experienced, we detect mistakes sooner, before they become too large, and correct them faster, so, there is an illusion that we don't make them. Mistakes are unavoidable. Mistakes are all we do all our life. It's silly to be afraid of them.
    • May 31 2013: I think you miss one item of the list Arkady, 3) the probability of getting caught.
      That's where the beancounters come in handy.
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        Jun 1 2013: Tify, mistakes follow from inaccurate representation of reality in our mind. Intentional inaccurate representation of reality (misrepresentation) is also called a lie. Trying to cover up our mistakes is intentional misrepresentation of reality. It "adds injury to the insult" multiplying the effect of the original mistake.

        Instead of contemplating the probability of getting caught, we need to contemplate the necessity of disclosing our mistakes based on the consequences for the affected parties. If a mistake endangers someone's life or can cause a serious damage, we must disclose such mistake without waiting to be caught. If consequences of a mistake are trivial (failure of a pen worth 50 cents), disclosure is not as important.

        Quality assurance happens to be my occupation. My job is to test things, find mistakes and failures (including my own), and report them. The goal is quality and reliability improvement. Not putting anyone to shame or finger-pointing. It is unfortunate that people sometimes get caught in politics and power struggles and lose the focus of real priorities. "Not making a mistake" is not a goal by itself.
        • Jun 1 2013: Arkady, I never said IF it was or wasn't intentional, therefore it cant be assumed to be a lie.

          I assumed that people might get the admission might not be present, and what might motivate that is ...the probability of getting caught.

          That's actually quite different from your interpretation of it, and there in lays the rub, and possibly the very reason people dont admit...interpretation.
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        Jun 1 2013: Tify, I understand your point. Sometimes, people are afraid to make mistakes because they worry that others will find out and this will damage their reputation. My point is that if we are concerned about our reputation, our focus should not be the reputation itself. If I'm concerned about my reputation as an engineer, I need to focus on the quality of my product, not on others "finding out" my mistakes. This means that if I make a mistake, I must disclose it and correct as soon as possible. Doing so will, actually, improve my reputation rather than damage it.

        When I do my best, I'm not concerned whether others will find out my mistakes.
        • Jun 2 2013: But Arkady, you work as an engineer, that's typically one profession where quality and pride of workmanship, quality control are still relevant. Unfortunately there are to many to mention that are not. One such example is, I remember the 30,000 hips implants that were 'recalled', goodness knows how you'd do that. It wasn't the engineering, it was the metal used - low grade. Someone made a mistake, and thought the probability....

          I also think one's culture and country also come into play too. Remember Clinton and the I did not have sexual relations. Now if Clinton had been the prime minister of France, no would have cared. Heck, it would probably have been expected, and probably in some quarters cheered that he could still... well you get the picture :)
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        Jun 2 2013: Tify,

        People are afraid "to be caught" because they are afraid to be judged. So, let's not judge those who did not use proper metal in those hip implants. (By the way, choice of material for the product IS engineering). All manufacturers have pressures for cost, time of product delivery, and quality. All three cannot be optimized. One needs to make a judgment call of what is "good enough".

        In my earlier years as a quality engineer, I used to have this attitude "goodness knows how you'd do that", "what were they thinking?" etc. I found this attitude to be the source of stress and frustration at my job - for myself and for others. My work became a lot more enjoyable when I changed it. When people do not judge and blame each other, they are a lot more open to disclose problems and discuss solutions.
  • May 30 2013: whenever we try something new there's always the possibility of either success or failure, and so we will only ever be afraid to make mistakes where the backlash of that mistake will be significant enough to offset any potential gain through success. the scientific community in general has no problem at all with failure but it recognizes that that it's impossible to account for everything when working for progress, because it fundamentally requires that unknowns are present, but there is the danger of backlash from short-sighted bureaucrats who see failure as money and time wasted. it's the reason why our smartphones are so ordinary really, they contain nothing new at all, merely a collection of devices already developed by scientists.

    basically, we're not afraid of making mistakes, but we are afraid of the reprisals from people unable to see the wider implications.
    • May 31 2013: I disagree with that, one can look at the pharma industry who has often been found out of 'doctoring the data'. And no only do they do that, they also list 'contraindications', which is a nice get out of jail free card.

      And the above also poses the question why is the phrase... 'doctoring the data' used, what does that say about the scientific community?
      • W T

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        May 31 2013: "Contraindications"....a nice get out of jail free card.

        Ha!! I'll have to add that one to my urban dictionary list.
        • Jun 1 2013: You have my permission, as if you needed it :) To use it liberally at work / home / play, ie...

          "if you want me to do this ... there are Contraindications" :)

          or to one's children...

          "if you do that... there are Contraindications" :)
      • May 31 2013: the pharma industry is not part of the scientific community. they are working for sales, not for discovery.
        • W T

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          Jun 1 2013: What? But don't they use chemists to come up with the medicines?

          I understand all about the pharma industry......and how they have power and all that......but they still use scientists, or am I wrong?
        • Jun 1 2013: Ben,

          but to have sales... they have to have discovery.

          Might be better posed as ...what's your interpretation of the scientific community?
      • Jun 3 2013: mary and tify: yes they do, but the way they work is quite different. what the pharma industry does is try to use discoveries already made by science in order to produce medicine that they can sell. for example say a scientist working at a university somewhere found that a particular kind of sea slug produced a bacteria-resistant substance, the pharma scientist would try to find a way to make that substance in order to market it as an antibiotic, but they would never be employed to study sea slugs.
        • W T

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          Jun 4 2013: Ben, I just found this reply of yours.

          Thank you so much for this information.
          Now I kind of see what you mean.

          In the future I would like to read about the Pharmaceutical industry.....I am very curious about it.
          Thanks again!
      • Jun 5 2013: sorry it was difficult to find, the nearest comment of yours that had a reply button was up the page and would've made it confusing. appreciate you taking the trouble to find it and let me know!
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    May 30 2013: Perhaps, you did not ask the question correctly. The answer to "why are we afraid to make mistakes?" is fairly straightforward - read Pat's comment.

    The question, perhaps, is "why are we afraid to acknowledge the mistakes in public?"
    • May 30 2013: Interesting interpretation - it comes down to this level of success we are conditioned to meet, from the moment we set foot in kindergarten, perhaps earlier. Making a mistake that no one knows about is all fine, but as soon as someone gets wind of it, our reputation is at stake.

      I notice with my kids, who are 5 and 6 years old, that making mistakes is an enormous deal. They are both in school, so the process of shamefulness has begun.. Now is the time, to help them learn that making mistakes is how we learn, that it's more than ok, and that they should never be ashamed of making one. Sometimes, I purposefully make a 'mistake' (I give them the wrong glass of juice, for example) and embrace their reactions, reassuring them that yes, even the all-mighty Mama, can make a mistake and live to tell the tale...
      • Jun 1 2013: interesting word... interpretation ... seeing a lot of fly around ... Interpretation has wings :)
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    May 30 2013: .
    My answer:
    In short term, "mistake" makes us unhappy (suffering).
    Suffering makes us a-step-worse for keeping our DNA alive --- our life goal.

    In long term, once we find the way to correct the "mistake", it will make us greatly happy
    because it thus makes us a greater a-step-better.
  • May 29 2013: I dont think we're afraid to make mistakes, we make them all the time.

    I think what we're afraid of is that they will be found out, and scientists are no different - how many findings has the data been doctored, or political or financial motivations made things happen regardless of the data's outcome.

    Maybe it's because we'll be perceived differently, from our perception of ourselves, if those 'mistakes' are shown (depending on the size of the mistake?), and that's why cover-up's / spin / hide it under the rug and a million other euphemisms - happen all the time.
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      May 31 2013: i completely agree with you, but i'm not sure this always applies in reality. a mistake that is considered part of a learning process in one culture, country, family, etc can be considered something inappropriate somewhere else, which requires punishment.
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        May 31 2013: This dealing with mistakes in various cultures is a noteworthy point.

        I will tell you what happened to me when I arrived in this country.
        I learned as a child, to look down whenever an adult had to correct me, or reprimand me.
        This was a sign of respect. And I should not talk back.

        Then, I come to the US, and when my classmates looked down whenever a teacher reprimanded them, the teacher (an American) would tell the child (foreigner) look up at me when I talk to you!!!!
        Confusing to say the least. At home, act one way, at school act the other. Oh, and if you should make the mistake of looking at your parents when they were reprimanding you...oh boy....then the fireworks began. Parents just couldn't believe that their child dared to raise their eyes and look at them in the face. Mixed signals given by adults, made life difficult when dealing with childhood mistakes and punishments.

        Another point, I think some cultures expect kids to be P_E_R_F_E_C_T, then become perfect adults. This is "insane" Pat says above. Noone is perfect. But upbringing and culture play a HUGE role on how we view mistakes, and also on how other's view our mistakes.

        See QF, your question has many many is not simple to answer.
  • May 29 2013: In a competition, mistakes are weaknesses to be exploited. In the general population, weaknesses are looked exploited for personal gain, physically, socially, legally or other means. Showing your weaknesses is opening yourself to potential exploitation and ridicule. The reward has to be worth the risk. In the case of a teacher, parent, or selfless team member, admitting your mistakes enables more than just you to learn from them. It is a noble thing to do, but comes at the expense of ego and reputation sometimes.
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    May 29 2013: You might enjoy the perspective in Kathryn Shiultz's TED talk on being wrong.
    • W T

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      May 30 2013: Aha!! I am reading her book at this very moment....and I will offer this answer to the question above:

      We are afraid to make mistakes, because we want to be right. We do not want to be wrong.

      The simplest answer is usually the best.
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        May 30 2013: I have the book too in my bookshelf. Looks like I should read it through...
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          May 30 2013: Hello Tomoshige....yes, definitely read it.

          I just listened to her talk again right get the sound of her voice in my head so I can read the book with more meaning.

          It is very well written, and has alot of real life experiences.

          Let me know how you like it.

          Be Well,
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        May 31 2013: so we're not afraid of some kind of punishment, either direct (getting fired) or indirect (feeling excluded)?
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          May 31 2013: Well, QF, I'm sure that some individuals might be afraid of making mistakes because of the repercussions..........when speaking strictly about mistakes in the workplace.

          I would imagine that also a feeling of embarassment would add to the fear of making a mistake, not to mention that in some jobs you could cause the death of someone by your mistake (policemen, doctors or firemen come to mind).

          ..but there are just so many many mistakes that we can make as humans, and so I personally think it goes beyond this fear of punishment.

          I think that like some have brought out on here, early intervention in helping children deal with mistakes, might help the future work force.

          There is also something I read recently about how some people go through life without thinking that they will make a mistake.......WAIT....I just's a TED video.

          Here is the link:

          Tali Sharot: The optimism bias

          Have you seen this talk? It is about people who go through life thinking that they will not make a mistake.

          Perhaps this will further you along in your quest for answers.
          And if you have access to a public library....then by all means check out the book by Schulz on Being Wrong. It is a great read.