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“Stupidology” by Babette Bensoussan

Babette Bensoussan’s way with words and thoughts always grab my attention. The latest jewel landed in my inbox this morning. I love this Babette and am sharing!

Dear Marie-Luce,


"I’ve learned so much from my mistakes.  I’m thinking of making a few more."  – Anon
Being stupid is one of the main characteristics that distinguish humans from animals. Animals have an instinct for their own best interests. Humans, by contrast, occasionally act in a way that is contrary to rational behaviour - and contrary to their own best interests. Much attention is paid to ‘best practice’ in business courses, but perhaps we need to pay more attention to stupidity.
A definition of stupidology is ‘doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result’, as in the example of repeating the same types of campaigns, strategies, habits, etc. and getting only limited results - yet somehow expecting to do better next time.
All enterprises (whether governmental or commercial) get locked into doing the same thing – we all get locked in repeating the same pattern – instead of standing back and asking whether a particular policy or behaviour is being effective. The tendency is to repeat it with more gusto. Perhaps too many careers are vested in the original action to question it. Instead of lateral thinking, people and enterprises just dig themselves deeper into the same hole.
Here are three recommendations to break the cycle:
Educational institutions should teach worst practices. Those that currently teach ‘best practice’ courses in the hope that we can discover a formula for success, would perhaps also gain from looking at ‘worst practice’. What are the lessons to be learned from the failures?  What have you learned from your past mistakes?
There should be the study of ‘bad role models’. People are often encouraged to follow positive role models, but what about the worst examples we have encountered? We need to reflect on why we thought the bad role models were so bad and how we ought to avoid doing or behaving in a similar way.
Within each enterprise and for each of us personally, there should be the recognition that mistakes are an opportunity to learn, rather than burying them or being ashamed of them. We need to operate where mistakes can be admitted and explored, and lessons learned before moving on.
After every project or endeavour, we need to sit back and ask: “What were the lessons to be learned?” Consider how ‘open’ your enterprise is and whether it enables people to admit that mistakes have been made.
What about you? Mistakes are simply opportunities to learn.

Yours with a few more mistakes to come,