Friday, January 25, 2008

Mistake Culture - confirmation without even looking

It was not more than two days ago that OFD shared its perspective on the value and place that mistakes can have in learning and creativity. We lamented how closed our society is to making mistakes, how ingrained it is in our cultural mindset that making mistakes is singular a 'bad' thing.

The folks at OFD could not prevent ourselves smiling at the irony of having this confirmed the next day in two separate parts of the same paper, the print version of the LA Times on Thursday January 24th, 2008.

The first is courtesy of the Cal State System's Chancellor. His belief reinforces the popularly held misconception that mistakes should ideally occur infrequently, underscoring the idea that they are something to be avoided.

"I make a few mistakes once in a while. But I try to fix them and not make them again." Charles Reed

The second one comes from an interview with the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic who also speaks to the idea of mistakes as something to be avoided.

"The carnage brought about by conflict resulting in war is too horrendous to consider, and yet human beings are almost incapable of learning from their mistakes we made in the past, and go on repeating them." Lorin Maazel

As the context of Maazel's commentary attests, there are situations in which making mistakes are unequivocally a bad thing. There is clearly a place for a desire to avoid repetition to be attached to the concept of mistake. The issue we at OFD have however is that this currently too firmly and exclusively anchors the popularly held conception of what a 'mistake' is.

Here's how OFD envisions the dimensions of mistake. It's not meant to be definitive, just a starting point for discussion, development and, we hope, change in the perceived value of mistakes.

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