Black Box Thinking

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The surprising truth about success

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the book Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success. In life, when faced with failure, some people choose to draw lessons from it, while others either forget it immediately and make the same mistake next time, or spend so much energy thinking about it that they become too fearful of difficulties and simply stop on their way to progress. “Failure is the mother of success.” This old saying is familiar to all of us, but few have a thorough understanding of it. Why do people escape from the reality of failure and refuse to accept the facts? How can we show a rational attitude towards failure? And how can we make use of our experience of failure to make ourselves grow stronger? We will find the answers to these questions in this book, Black Box Thinking, and we will learn how to make peace with failure. The book was written by the famous British ping-pong player Matthew Syed, who represented Britain twice in the Olympic Games. He self-studied his way to Oxford University to major in politics, philosophy and economics, and graduated with honors. He is now a well-known columnist for The Times. Throughout his athletic career, he failed many times before he won the championship, and these experiences gave Syed a deep understanding of failure and success. He conducted surveys across various industries and found out that different attitudes towards failure led to different vocational development prospects. He compared two industries most closely related to life safety: healthcare and aviation. In the healthcare sector, according to relevant research reports, medical accidents cause a high proportion of deaths in both the United States and Europe, and some of these accidents could have been avoided and prevented. For example, a 2013 paper in the Journal of Patient Safety suggested that 440,000 people per year die from preventable medical errors, and a 2016 paper in the BMJ proposed that 251,454 people die from medical errors yearly. Why do medical accidents happen so frequently? Other than the inherently complicated nature of illnesses, another relevant factor is the healthcare industry’s culture of evading failures. People don't learn from mistakes, so the same accidents happen again and again. By contrast, the accident rates in aviation are quite low, precisely because people in this industry attach great importance to failure and have a decisive attitude towards failure. Every plane is equipped with two black boxes. One is designed to record operation instructions, and the other is designed to record dialogues and communication in the cockpit. Once there is an accident, the black boxes are opened to identify the causes, learn the lesson and prevent such disasters from happening again. Based on this finding, Matthew Syed put forward the idea of "black box thinking," a mindset with which people can investigate, summarize experiences, and learn from failures. This mindset enables the aviation industry to continuously improve and ensure the safety of passengers, and it is also a mindset that other industries should learn. The same is true in human society. Only by learning from each failure can we continue to make progress. Cultivating a Black Box Thinking mindset is highly important for personal growth as well as for industrial and social development. In the following parts, we will discuss this book by answering three questions: First, what are the different attitudes towards failure? Second, how can we handle failure correctly? And third, how can we learn from failure?

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