Do We Really Learn From Our Mistakes?

Douglas Adams quote

“Human beings, who are almost unique [among animals] in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

– Douglas Adams

Do we learn from our mistakes?

Of course we do.

Does that mean we don’t do them again?

Of course we do.

Hopefully over time we’ll make the mistakes less often.

I remember playing snooker once with a friend of mine in a club that had what was effectively double-glazed windows. The set nearest to us was one massive window, and the set behind them a row of three regular-sized windows.

I was playing a shot when I heard a deep ‘Boing!’ sound coming from behind me. I turned around to see my friend rubbing his forehead. I asked him what happened, he pointed at the window. I thought something had happened outside, so I went to peer through the window. Boing! I also had not noticed the nearest window with forehead-aching consequences.

I’d like to say we didn’t do it again but I can’t. I’d like to say we hadn’t be warned by the owner that this sometimes happen but I can’t.

When working on projects, I’ve described some pitfalls to avoid, only to see the client trip straight into them. We do learn by others’ experiences but often we have to experience it ourselves before we really learn it.

It isn’t alway ‘disinclination’ that makes us fail to learn from others, so, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide cover says, ‘Don’t Panic’.

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