Making mistakes, as William Berman at Suffolk University points out, is not only part of human nature, it’s also an important aspect of how we learn. We’re all having to make difficult decisions right now, from the personal (how can I widen my job prospects?), to family and friendship groups (how do we become fitter and healthier?), or company-wide (how can we downsize enough to keep going?). At every level, we’re vulnerable to error.

How can you use what you learn from the mistakes you make to help you do better?

1. Encourage open dialogue and a positive atmosphere. Harvard professor Rosabeth Kanter stresses the importance of regular communication and mutual respect when you’re working with others. Even when you’re problem solving alone, if you dismiss an idea as “ridiculous” or “unrealistic” before considering its potential, you’ll soon stop coming up with any ideas at all.

2. Gather information wisely. Errors among business leaders were most likely when they attended only to information that supported their views. Gather information constantly, from reliable sources, and include at least one source that challenges your opinion.

3. Make specific, measurable suggestions. Non-specific directives made further errors more likely. “Lose weight” is too vague, whereas “lose a pound a week” allows progress to be measured.

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4. Monitor change. Keep regular accurate records of measures you’ve created.

5. Check in with yourself and/or meet with relevant others regularly and often.

Hard work? Yes. Continual? Yes. But taking these steps will mean the difference between demoralising failure and positive progress.

The Daily Telegraph

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