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Black Box
Thinking
The surprising truth
about success
(and why some
people never learn
from their mistakes)
Introducing a powerful new book
from the bestselling writer and
speaker Matthew Syed.
This is the story of the
surprising truth about success.
About how some of the
most innovative and
pioneering organizations in
the world are succeeding…
… and what you can
learn from them.
We begin by looking
at some of the greatest
succcesses in business, sport
and the wider world and
asking a question…
… what connects them?
AviAtion industry
What do the Mercedes Formulae team
andGoogle have in common?
What is the connection between Dave Brailsford’s
Team Sky and the aviation industry?
Or inventor James Dyson and
basketball player Michael Jordan?
The answer?
?
Failure.
Or more accurately how
they reacted to failure…
… learning from their mistakes and
reversing their fortunes for success.
This is Black Box Thinking.
And this is what you need to know
about successful Black Box Thinking,
in one handy guide.
1. Change a little, achieve a lot
(a.k.a. Marginal Gains)
Marginal gains has become
a buzz topic. But what is it?
A systematic attempt to
discover small, often
unnoticed weaknesses
in one’s assumptions,
and then to improve
each one of them.
Dave Brailsford noted tiny problems in
bike design, aerodynamic efficiency, diet
and a host of other things.
Each marginal gain improved performance by a fraction.
The accumulation of gains was the difference between
finishing mid-table and winning gold.
Google conducted a series of tests to see if
changing the colour of their web-links
could improve click-throughs.
The results recommended that
they tweak their links to a
slightly greener shade of blue.
This tiny Marginal
Gain is estimated to
have generated an
additional $200M in
annual revenues.
2. Avoid Closed Loops
The inability to face up to
where we are going wrong,
is the biggest single obstacle
to success.
Not merely for big institutions,
but for individuals.
But why is it
important to
avoid closed
loops?
Detecting and adapting to
errors is nearly non-existent
in the healthcare industry.
There are around 400,000 fatalities
caused by preventable medical
error in the United States alone.
That is the equivalent of
two jumbo jets falling out
of the sky every day.
Medical mistakes are often
spun or denied, and lessons
are rarely learnt.
This is why deaths continue
to occur in the same way
over and over again.
And it is not just healthcare that falls
victim to closed loops.
A study by the University of Michigan estimates that if
prison sentences were reviewed with the same level of
care as death sentences, there would have been ‘over
28,500 exonerations in the past fifteen years’…
… rather than the 255 that
have in fact occurred.
Why? Because the criminal justice
system doesn’t learn from its
mistakes either.
Learning from our mistakes is
essential to engender success.
After all, how can we
improve if we don’t learn?
3. No blame, no shame
The fear of blame, is a
dangerous obstacle on
the road to success.
A report by Harvard Business
Review found that executives
believe that only 2 to 5 per cent
of failures in their organisations
were truly blameworthy…
… but when asked how many mistakes were
treated as blameworthy the number
was between 70 and 90 per cent.
This tendency to point
the finger and demand
retribution, even when a
colleague was doing his or
her best, obliterates the
sharing of information
that drives progress.
Successful cultures are open and honest,
not closed and back-covering.
4. Try, try again
In many areas of life, we have to fail a lot
before we come up with a good solution.
One of the most famous
examples of this comes in the
form of inventor James Dyson.
Dyson worked his way through
many prototypes to make his
dual cyclone vacuum cleaner…
… many, many attempts…
5,127prototypes to be exact.
To put it another way, he had to fail 5,126
times before he created a world-changing success.
1. Change a little, achieve a lot
(a.k.a. Marginal Gains)
2. Avoid Closed Loops
3. No blame, no shame
4. Try, try again
By applying these rules to our social
institutions, our political institutions
and our own lives we can build,
develop and ultimately succeed.
That’s why
we need more
Black Box
Thinking.
‘Matthew Syed has issued a stirring call to revolutionise
how we think about success – by changing our attitude to
failure. Failure shouldn’t be shameful and stigmatising, but
exciting and enlightening. Full of well-crafted stories and
keenly deployed scientific insights, Black Box Thinking will
forever change the way you think about screwing up.’
DANIEL PINK, AUTHOR OF DRIVE & TO SELL IS HUMAN
‘Creative breakthroughs always begin with multiple
failures. This brilliant book shows how true invention lies
in the understanding and overcoming of these failures,
which we must learn to embrace.’
JAMES DYSON, DESIGNER, INVENTOR & ENTREPRENEUR
#blackboxthinking
OUT NOW

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Black Box Thinking - The Surprising Truth About Success

  • 3. (and why some people never learn from their mistakes)
  • 4. Introducing a powerful new book from the bestselling writer and speaker Matthew Syed.
  • 5. This is the story of the surprising truth about success.
  • 6. About how some of the most innovative and pioneering organizations in the world are succeeding…
  • 7. … and what you can learn from them.
  • 8. We begin by looking at some of the greatest succcesses in business, sport and the wider world and asking a question…
  • 9. … what connects them? AviAtion industry
  • 10. What do the Mercedes Formulae team andGoogle have in common?
  • 11. What is the connection between Dave Brailsford’s Team Sky and the aviation industry?
  • 12. Or inventor James Dyson and basketball player Michael Jordan?
  • 15. Or more accurately how they reacted to failure…
  • 16. … learning from their mistakes and reversing their fortunes for success.
  • 17. This is Black Box Thinking.
  • 18. And this is what you need to know about successful Black Box Thinking, in one handy guide.
  • 19. 1. Change a little, achieve a lot (a.k.a. Marginal Gains)
  • 20. Marginal gains has become a buzz topic. But what is it?
  • 21. A systematic attempt to discover small, often unnoticed weaknesses in one’s assumptions, and then to improve each one of them.
  • 22. Dave Brailsford noted tiny problems in bike design, aerodynamic efficiency, diet and a host of other things.
  • 23. Each marginal gain improved performance by a fraction. The accumulation of gains was the difference between finishing mid-table and winning gold.
  • 24. Google conducted a series of tests to see if changing the colour of their web-links could improve click-throughs.
  • 25. The results recommended that they tweak their links to a slightly greener shade of blue.
  • 26. This tiny Marginal Gain is estimated to have generated an additional $200M in annual revenues.
  • 28. The inability to face up to where we are going wrong, is the biggest single obstacle to success. Not merely for big institutions, but for individuals.
  • 29. But why is it important to avoid closed loops?
  • 30. Detecting and adapting to errors is nearly non-existent in the healthcare industry.
  • 31. There are around 400,000 fatalities caused by preventable medical error in the United States alone.
  • 32. That is the equivalent of two jumbo jets falling out of the sky every day.
  • 33. Medical mistakes are often spun or denied, and lessons are rarely learnt. This is why deaths continue to occur in the same way over and over again.
  • 34. And it is not just healthcare that falls victim to closed loops.
  • 35. A study by the University of Michigan estimates that if prison sentences were reviewed with the same level of care as death sentences, there would have been ‘over 28,500 exonerations in the past fifteen years’…
  • 36. … rather than the 255 that have in fact occurred.
  • 37. Why? Because the criminal justice system doesn’t learn from its mistakes either.
  • 38. Learning from our mistakes is essential to engender success. After all, how can we improve if we don’t learn?
  • 39. 3. No blame, no shame
  • 40. The fear of blame, is a dangerous obstacle on the road to success.
  • 41. A report by Harvard Business Review found that executives believe that only 2 to 5 per cent of failures in their organisations were truly blameworthy…
  • 42. … but when asked how many mistakes were treated as blameworthy the number was between 70 and 90 per cent.
  • 43. This tendency to point the finger and demand retribution, even when a colleague was doing his or her best, obliterates the sharing of information that drives progress.
  • 44. Successful cultures are open and honest, not closed and back-covering.
  • 45. 4. Try, try again
  • 46. In many areas of life, we have to fail a lot before we come up with a good solution.
  • 47. One of the most famous examples of this comes in the form of inventor James Dyson.
  • 48. Dyson worked his way through many prototypes to make his dual cyclone vacuum cleaner…
  • 49. … many, many attempts…
  • 51. To put it another way, he had to fail 5,126 times before he created a world-changing success.
  • 52. 1. Change a little, achieve a lot (a.k.a. Marginal Gains) 2. Avoid Closed Loops 3. No blame, no shame 4. Try, try again
  • 53. By applying these rules to our social institutions, our political institutions and our own lives we can build, develop and ultimately succeed.
  • 54. That’s why we need more Black Box Thinking.
  • 55. ‘Matthew Syed has issued a stirring call to revolutionise how we think about success – by changing our attitude to failure. Failure shouldn’t be shameful and stigmatising, but exciting and enlightening. Full of well-crafted stories and keenly deployed scientific insights, Black Box Thinking will forever change the way you think about screwing up.’ DANIEL PINK, AUTHOR OF DRIVE & TO SELL IS HUMAN
  • 56. ‘Creative breakthroughs always begin with multiple failures. This brilliant book shows how true invention lies in the understanding and overcoming of these failures, which we must learn to embrace.’ JAMES DYSON, DESIGNER, INVENTOR & ENTREPRENEUR