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Failing Well: Understanding the Differences Between Rational, Situational and Dispositional Thinking

February 19, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 240

"It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best." - W. Edwards Deming

There comes a time in most people's career where they cease to become an understudy. After years of early support in our careers, we are elevated to a certain position of responsibility and suddenly this support is cut off. At this point we are forced to change our approach to self-development and instead tend to learn through experience rather than instruction.

The most valuable experiences we learn from are failures.

When we fail, we tend to forensically analyse the circumstances leading up to the tipping point - the point where failure cannot be avoided - so that we can avoid it happening in future. Our self-worth is typically bashed and bruised in the aftermath of a failure, meaning that we don't always review the situation objectively. Remember though, it is only through understanding ourselves and the circumstances of failure that we can take steps to improve things for the better.

I am reminded at this point, by the 2007 Disney film, Meet the Robinsons. In this animated movie, the young hero accidentally, and somewhat messily, blows up an invention at the dinner table. Rather than being reprimanded for his actions, the rest of his dinner guests applaud him for such a spectacular failure. Remember this next time you get hauled in front of a line-manager for a mistake.

Failure can be good.

In working within critical environments, I have come across a number of statistics that show that anywhere between 80-95% of all failures of critical systems are down to human error at some point. What an opportunity for learning! When a failure occurs, it is essential to understand the contributory factors and behaviors that led to the tipping point so that they can be avoided or mitigated in future. To do this, I suggest behaviors are framed into one or a combination of three categories:

Situational (incorrect environmental and circumstantial decision making)Rational (incorrect reasoning and logic)Dispositional (based on ingrained behaviors and personalities)

Of these three behaviors, the one to look out for is Dispositional thinking. We can always improve the Situations in which decisions are made by strengthening routines and improving understanding. We're able to train people to overcome challenges in their Rational thinking by providing better decision making tools. Dispositional thinking though requires more effort to overcome and involves better recruitment, team selection and the promotion of self-awareness tools in the workplace.

All failures are opportunities to evolve thinking and routines in future. Whether it is for improving customer proposals, the performance of critical systems or the successful outputs of teams, it is essential to learn. As the Robinsons say in the Disney film, let's "Keep moving forward".

Chris D. Payne is a business services professional with experience of delivering savings, improvements and innovations across a wide range of outsourced facilities management, maintenance and critical environment contracts.

Source: EzineArticles
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Article Tags:

Critical Systems


Tipping Point


Decision Making


Dispositional Thinking


Thinking Styles



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