Among the most impactful things an individual can do is to look for “lessons learned” after events and also periodically, even without special circumstances.
Beyond the particular things that are learned, it helps individuals to be more resilient, less prone to depression, and to maintain a “growth mindset.”
Organizations can accrue analogous corporate culture benefits.
As the year closes, I am looking at my Lessons-Learned file. But rather than tell you what I’ve learned (or failed to learn, since the essential lessons you haven’t learned keep presenting you with additional opportunities), I’d rather talk about the mechanics of doing this well. (My own lessons are mainly things so specific to me as to be uninteresting to others or so widely known as to seem trite.)
I try to ask three questions:
- For things that went right, what should we remember so that they will go right next time?
- For things that went badly, what should we do differently so they don’t go badly next time?
- For things that went really well, so well that we are exceptionally proud of them, what can we do next time so that they can go even better?
It is easy for people to focus on the second question — avoiding things that went badly, but I think that there is much more to be learned from the others, especially if not enough goes wrong in your world.
I look to get a daily writing. Among other things, it helps you notice when you have the same answer to question 2 over and over again. As importantly, it’s good to see that there are answers to questions 1 and 3 on a regular basis. It is often too easy to remember only things that have gone wrong.
When I am fortunate enough to talk about these each day, it keeps me honest. I find my written notes really aren’t sufficient to guide me as to what to do / to not do. And my thinking is generally equally incomplete.
Retelling the most important ones of the week to someone has also worked well for me. It gets me to reread them, notice repeats and think about what is important.
Then there is the annual review. That today.
Fortunately, I am no further from learning certain of these than I was last year (and the year before that), and there even seem to be a few that I have actually learned.