Failure is a taboo topic in marketing, yet teams struggled with feelings of disappointment, defeat, and underperformance. A fast-paced world where individuals are measured in terms of the goals met, the KPIs, and their commissions, we have become terrified of being pointed at, of becoming vulnerable to someone saying that we were not right. But that is the only way we truly learn. Reading Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, we dove into a trip of self-discovery - re-defining the concept of failure and how we react to it.
Throughout Q3, a few members of the Insynth team met for 30-minute sessions every week to discuss, chapter-by-chapter, the best-selling book “Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes But Some Do” by Matthew Syed. We went over the different experiments and examples Syed explores in the book, understanding why we react to failure the way we do.
What Is “Black Box Thinking” About
Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn” and, yet most of us, are terrified of making a mistake. Most of us already know that failure plays an important role in success but hate the process. Failing is not a defeat, but an opportunity to learn as we acknowledge our failures and analyse them.
So, what is preventing us from taking that step and recognising that we have made a mistake? A few factors involved are reputation and perfectionism, but the question is whether we are happy to admit that we have failed. And that is an uncomfortable question for most of us. Admitting our mistakes and putting in place processes for those not to be repeated can actually reduce the number of mistakes we make as a team, especially if we share them with others.
Why We Choose “Black Box Thinking”
As a data-driven marketing agency, the idea of the black-box is fascinating. Technically known as a flight data recorder, a black box is an instrument that records all the activities of an aeroplane during its flight and, therefore, becomes an invaluable asset to evaluate what might have gone wrong after an aviation incident. Flight data recorders were first introduced in the 1950s when they realised aviation accidents had to have some kind of follow-up.They had to know exactly what went wrong.
Black boxes ensured that procedures were adapted so that the same chain of actions would not develop into the same situation. Currently, aviation is one of the safest industries in the world. We chose this book to re-define our own definition of failure and start understanding it from a data perspective, turning something that we often run away from into a new opportunity to learn.
What We Learnt from “Black Box Thinking”
We cannot learn from failure without a framework, without a safety net that teaches us to use mistakes as learning tool, seeing them as opportunities rather than defeats.
“I really enjoyed the book club as it gave me the opportunity to hear different perspectives - something I wouldn't usually experience when reading alone! I found the discussions around how we can change our perspectives around mistakes to ensure we are consistently learning and improving very useful” said Sandy, Digital Marketer at Insynth
"The book itself was very interesting, as it picked up on a lot of behavioural and psychological clues I could relate back to, both when it comes to my job role and how I work on a daily basis. I especially enjoyed the chapter about taking accountability and learning from your mistakes, rather than playing the blame game and pointing the finger at others." said Alex, Digital Marketing Apprentice at Insynth
“I found the books thought-provoking and ground-breaking, denouncing a society obsessed with easy success, without stopping to learn from those elements that did not quite hit the mark. The reference to other industries made me realised how much marketing has to learn and it gave me a few ideas on how some of these tactics can be applied to our own team to improve and make our office a truly safe environment” said Ainhoa, Head of Platform Consulting at Insynth
Our Favourite Quotes from Black Box
“Even the most beautifully constructed system will not work if professionals do not share the information that enables it to flourish. […] When the probability of error is high, the importance of learning from mistakes is more essential, not less.”
“[…] avoiding failure in the short term has an inevitable outcome: we lose bigger in the longer term. This is, in many ways, a perfect metaphor for error-denial in the world today. […] Sometimes, committing errors is not just the fastest way to the correct answer; it’s the only way.”
“[…] we have an allergic attitude to failure. We try to avoid it, cover it up, and airbrush it from our lives.”
“Failures feed the imagination. You cannot have the one without the other.”
Our Next Book
We will be kicking off Q4 with a new book for the book club, “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by Roger Martin. This book highlights the complexity of the environments in which we make our decisions. A characteristic of the book that made us want to read it is its action-driven approach, with easy-to-read and apply examples that we will use to build better strategies for ourselves and our clients.