What do practitioners want to learn from their colleagues’ experiences? What are those real-world lessons that can be used to strengthen local interventions and policies?
This spring, The CAPTURE Project raised the question in a pilot needs assessment conducted in Ontario. One of the most surprising findings was that practitioners wanted to learn about their colleagues’ failures as much, if not more than their successes. What didn’t work and why not?
I think I could benefit a lot from learning what actually didn’t work for that context… that could be shared informally, like little red flags, you know, ‘Don’t go there!’
This seems to fly in the face of conventional practice where we tend to disseminate successes and keep quite about failures. Yet, many great philosophers and thinkers recognize that wisdom is often achieved by learning from failure.
We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes. – Leo Buscaglia
Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success. – William Saroyan
Can sharing what didn’t work lead to stronger local programs and policies? Wouldn’t it be great to learn what NOT to do so that we can avoid repeating the same mistakes as others? How helpful would it be to obtain advice from someone who has traveled the road before us, who can point out the pot holes, dead ends and false starts they have experienced and can share insights to help us avoid the same problems!
This type of information is rarely, if ever, available from academic / research evidence. We must rely on the generosity of our colleagues – all of us – to recognize the value of implementation or real-world evidence and to find ways to respectfully and safely share it and learn from it.
Sharing learnings that arise from failure is not without its challenges and risks. Can we do this in a way that avoids blame, unintended harm and loss of face? Will our willingness to share be respected and valued? Will it reflect positively or negatively on us?
I would argue that we need to begin a cultural shift towards valuing and applauding the sharing of lessons learned from failure. What do you think?
- Do you have a story to share about learning from failure?
- Do you have any thoughts on how to promote the sharing of mistakes and missteps in a way which focuses on learning and respects those involved?
Today The CAPTURE Project launched a national Evaluation Needs Assessment Survey (see the widget in the right navigation menu) to more fully understand what colleagues want to learn from real-world evidence. The survey will be open until July 19, 2010.
In addition to provincial dissemination channels, you can access the Needs Assessment Survey from CAPTURE website. We’d love to hear from you!
Manager, Towards Evidence-Informed Practice