May 24, 2007
Learning From Failure
Posted by Gordon Smith

My colleague Anne Miner in the UW Business School studies, among other things, how organizations learn vicariously from the failure of others. "Learning from failure" is novel in business schools and in some other quarters. For example, at Bob Lawless' recommendation, I picked up and started reading Scott Sandage's book, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. So far, so good. But I had to chuckle at the Prologue, where Sandage argues for the novelty of his approach:

Deadbeats tell no tales, it seems. Distinguished libraries saved the papers of history makers, but where might one look for scraps from the fallen -- the dead letter office?

Actually, as Sandage recognizes, law reporters are a good place to start. They are full of failures, cover to cover. So much so that in law schools we struggle to stave off cynicism in ourselves and our students.

Usually without success.

(Joke intended)

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