Learning from failure - a Growth Mindset

trial and error is faster and more accurate then top down thinking, but that means intellectual rigour. Fourthly, large tasks can be improved by paying attention to small details, and making marginal improvements and low level,
While I agree with most of your OP, trial and error can be extremely costly, and in a military context with a conflict where the risk to life outweighs the risk to mission (ie, like most expeditionary ops: any fight that's isn't one of survival) in the government/public perception, could cause you to learn a whole lot more about failure.

The fourth assertion doesn't seem to be reflected in a lot of industry 'bottom lines'.
 
Also, define failure.
Or to turn that on its head, do you know what success looks like?

How much military activity occurs from a need to 'go out an do stuff', mistaking process for progress, all because no end-state has been defined due to a lack of clear (often political) direction as to what is meant to be achieved in the first place. Libya 2011 is a classic example.
 
According to Psychology Today, the GDR hasn't failed, it just hasn't succeeded yet.
Ah the old deferred success so popular in the education system
 
...

Are we harnessing the power of failure? Has being able to do so been part of the reason the Asian Tiger economies has risen? Is failure to do so one of the reasons the High Street is dying?
There are experts on business, economy and Asia here. I'm not one of them. I did recall that the Japan was helped by American experts to reform their industry but there was a lot more to it than that. A key factor was continuous improvement, (Demming Cycle), which is where Japanese motorcycles and started to dramatically improve, often with British engineers who had given up on inflexible and unambitious working environments that reached their peak in the 1950's.

The post nationalisation period in the UK was concerned with maintaining production and employment irrespective of quality and efficiency. Output at any cost did not improve quality. That said, there were companies producing world leading engineering until they were merged, closed or sold off from the early 70's onwards.

There are many sources of the following information. I just picked these at random:
Continuous Improvement Model - Learning Resources| ASQ
Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle (PDCA Cycle) - ASQ

You could try PDCA for self improvement, if the goals are clear and moniterable I suppose.

The so called Asian Tiger appears very sucessful but there are often costs. Japan has had serious issues with it's economy and welfare. https://www.gsid.nagoya-u.ac.jp/sotsubo/Postwar_Development_of_the_Japanese Economy(Otsubo_NagoyaU).pdf
 

Yokel

LE
While I agree with most of your OP, trial and error can be extremely costly, and in a military context with a conflict where the risk to life outweighs the risk to mission (ie, like most expeditionary ops: any fight that's isn't one of survival) in the government/public perception, could cause you to learn a whole lot more about failure.

The fourth assertion doesn't seem to be reflected in a lot of industry 'bottom lines'.
One should never set out to fail - rather we have to accept that failure is a risk. If we accept the adage that 'no plan survives contact with reality' then we can view it in terms of input, process, output, and feedback. The feedback is due to the unknowns in a dynamic situation, and gives you the ability to adapt. That might be adapting tactics, or it might be time to UOR things.

Over a number of years a number of threads have expressed concern that we are too process driven. Feedback suffers from a strange paradox:

a: The rarer message is, the more information it contains (stronger resistance than expected, terrain more difficult that predicted, enemy capabilities still working, product not selling, project not progressing....)

b. The further something is from expectations, including emotional ones, the less likely it is to be listened to. Press on!

Normal process of design or planning get you 90% of the way there. As one of my lecturers said - it gets you into the room with the dartboard. However, the last 10% is where victory, defeat, market success, etc lie. So you need to make intelligent guesses, try, and reassess.

Pareto analysis (the 80/20 rule) should help illustrate which are the most valuable activities for adding value, capturing the attention of an audience, reducing vulnerability, and so on. The Deming PCDA cycle provides a means of being prevented from doing anything really dumb.
 

Yokel

LE
We often hear the phrase 'fail fast and fail often' without adding a third thing - fail safe.

The term 'fail safe' does not mean something is failure proof, rather it means fail TO safe, such as the electrical lock on a freezer room not trapping works inside during a power cut. From the perspective of innovation a growth, it means not seizing the first opportunity to stick the knife into anyone who does something new or different.

It also means people having the courage to admit things went awry. Try getting a politician or senior manager to admit that.
 
Not so sure about the freezer room analogy, that looks more like safety by design or putting sensible preventative & mitigative measures in place.

I would look at Fail safe more as Permission to fail, i.e. if working in an organisation that is creating, innovating, optimising or practicing a particular process or item, that failures either planned or unexpected are accepted and incorporated into the cintinuous review and improvement cycle.

The 3 fails I have heard are: fail fast, fail often and fail early. I.e get stuck in as soon as there is a beta version of an ops plan or a work procedure (proper or intrinsic safety should be incorporated into the plan the operator is doing, rather than the responsibility of someone off to one side)

It still comes down to risk.
This latest WR article is interesting: Is the British Army Paralysed by Risk? - The Wavell Room

Though I would propose that the Author hasn't yet learnt the bitter mathematics that Sarastro identified so well here:
https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/threads/telegraph-article-cuts-have-left-army-20-years-out-of-date-and-forces-not-fit-for-purpose.268293/#post-8251496
 

Yokel

LE
Not so sure about the freezer room analogy, that looks more like safety by design or putting sensible preventative & mitigative measures in place.

I would look at Fail safe more as Permission to fail, i.e. if working in an organisation that is creating, innovating, optimising or practicing a particular process or item, that failures either planned or unexpected are accepted and incorporated into the cintinuous review and improvement cycle.

The 3 fails I have heard are: fail fast, fail often and fail early. I.e get stuck in as soon as there is a beta version of an ops plan or a work procedure (proper or intrinsic safety should be incorporated into the plan the operator is doing, rather than the responsibility of someone off to one side)

It still comes down to risk.
This latest WR article is interesting: Is the British Army Paralysed by Risk? - The Wavell Room

Though I would propose that the Author hasn't yet learnt the bitter mathematics that Sarastro identified so well here:
https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/threads/telegraph-article-cuts-have-left-army-20-years-out-of-date-and-forces-not-fit-for-purpose.268293/#post-8251496
I meant the Engineering term 'fail safe' - something like an electric lock can fail to either safe (open) or secure (closed). The term incidentally comes from the railways and an accident where people where killed by a runaway carriage. Steam was used for the brakes, unfortunately no steam meant no brakes. The system was changed so that the brakes were on unless steam pressure released them.

Safety equipment allows people to try risky activities such as rock climbing without a high risk of catastrophic failure. Simulators allow pilots of fast jets to try new tactics without the risk of losing aircraft in exercises.

But talking of attitudes - if a Platoon Commander tries new tactics during an exercise, is he praised or condemned for doing something different?
 
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Yokel

LE
Did my insertion of user tags in the original post work? Anyone?
 
But talking of attitudes - if a Platoon Commander tries new tactics during an exercise, is he praised or condemned for doing something different?
It's likely that the exercise is scripted to allow people to practice certain routines. The value of that specific training is in the practicing of these certain routines. By going off-script, your innovative Platoon Commander is denying someone else the benefit of the training being given, unless he saves his new tactics for the freeplay serial at the end, which is what that serial is for. If, however, at the planning stage, he suggests trying a new tactic, this can be planned in and properly evaluated.
 

Mr_Baiter

War Hero
But talking of attitudes - if a Platoon Commander tries new tactics during an exercise, is he praised or condemned for doing something different?
I like that point - as a young troop leader on troop tests, SPTA, we had to carry out an advance to contact, contact was made and as luck would have all I needed to do was move one callsign out to the left up a re-entrant to provide the fire base and then attack with my other 2 callsigns so I didn't bother with formal orders seeing that it was straightforward and my approach would be 10 mins faster and not delay the notional battlegroup advance of which I was notionally an advance element.

Of course I was torn off a strip by the OC for not doing a full set of orders.

Quite nice that I heard later that the CO had then torn the OC a new one and given my troop full marks

Depressingly the CO never made it past Col and the OC became a Lt Gen- and that is where the hidebound mindset persists throughout the Army
 
It's likely that the exercise is scripted to allow people to practice certain routines. The value of that specific training is in the practicing of these certain routines. By going off-script, your innovative Platoon Commander is denying someone else the benefit of the training being given, unless he saves his new tactics for the freeplay serial at the end, which is what that serial is for. If, however, at the planning stage, he suggests trying a new tactic, this can be planned in and properly evaluated.
The problem is that all of our training (standfast a tiny part) is scripted, and has nearly no "free play" elements.
 
The problem is that all of our training (standfast a tiny part) is scripted, and has nearly no "free play" elements.
Most of it is to develop (and God, I hate this term) muscle memory, which allows us by repetition to embed the set of actions needed into an area of our brain (the amygdala) which will let us carry out these actions without having to think about it. "Innovation" at this stage impedes this process.
 

Yokel

LE
I like that point - as a young troop leader on troop tests, SPTA, we had to carry out an advance to contact, contact was made and as luck would have all I needed to do was move one callsign out to the left up a re-entrant to provide the fire base and then attack with my other 2 callsigns so I didn't bother with formal orders seeing that it was straightforward and my approach would be 10 mins faster and not delay the notional battlegroup advance of which I was notionally an advance element.

Of course I was torn off a strip by the OC for not doing a full set of orders.

Quite nice that I heard later that the CO had then torn the OC a new one and given my troop full marks

Depressingly the CO never made it past Col and the OC became a Lt Gen- and that is where the hidebound mindset persists throughout the Army
So basically you were trying to be more agile my bypassing unnecessary process? Could there have have been a chance to pick platoons/troops at random and get some to do the full NATO sequence of orders, and others not, and properly analyse the results? Could you have come up with guidelines of when you need a full NSO and when you do not?

The problem is that all of our training (standfast a tiny part) is scripted, and has nearly no "free play" elements.
As an ex FOSTie would you say there is a difference between Tier One (BOST etc) and Tier Two like Joint Warrior? I have only seen JW from the perspective of being an augmentee in the HQ but the free play element has always seemed quite short.

Also if a ship's CO/PWO/etc has an idea about a new way of doing something, what scope do they have to test it in exercise and send the results to MWC? What about people such as ME and WE types who can see a better way of doing a particular job?

Most of it is to develop (and God, I hate this term) muscle memory, which allows us by repetition to embed the set of actions needed into an area of our brain (the amygdala) which will let us carry out these actions without having to think about it. "Innovation" at this stage impedes this process.
I know what you mean - but is there a danger people will do the same thing regardless of the situation? Do they have a slightly deeper understanding so they can adapt if things are different

TTPs are good, but what if they are not quite up to date enough - say the enemy is using a new weapon?
 
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Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Could you have come up with guidelines of when you need a full NSO and when you do not?
Why do you need guidelines? They will eventually become rules and eventually a dogma that people will be forced to follow (see the ossification of the Combat Estimate as an example). The best bet is to give your commander a set of tools, like QBO formats, that he can choose to use when the situation demands as well as enough training time to get a feel for when he does and doesn't need to use them.


I know what you mean - but is there a danger people will do the same thing regardless of the situation? Do they have a slightly deeper understanding so they can adapt if things are different

TTPs are good, but what if they are not quite up to date enough - say the enemy is using a new weapon?
That's bang on I think. I was taught by a remarkably forward thinking officer at RMAS (he was the RM attachment) who impressed upon us the need to be a 'thinking soldier' at all times. After we'd finished the first term he was happy for us to deviate from a template if we could justify doing so. I've always thought that's how we should be trained but it doesn't seem to work like that; we tend to go in for an American-style application of rules and templates irrespective of the situation.
 

Yokel

LE
I am currently having an argument with the fool Heathrow Harry on the PPRuNe Future Carrier thread about the Falklands. Despite the fact that the intelligence picture was very incomplete, and that sort of operation had not been practiced, and the shortcomings of the task group, Woodward and his staff get slated for not getting everything right from day one.

Apparently it was an example of why nobody ever deploys a carrier - or something. Or they were too close/to far from the islands, or something. Try explaining that ships move and do so in a tactical situation.

Does the public, fed by the media, have an unrealistic expectation of everything being 100% correct, first time? Similarly, when the Police investigate a crime doctors treat patients it is seldom as clear cut as the entertainment industry like to portray?

Is there an opportunity to engage with the public that defence/Government/industry x are missing to engage with the public, find out what the misunderstandings are, and deal with them?
 
Most of it is to develop (and God, I hate this term) muscle memory, which allows us by repetition to embed the set of actions needed into an area of our brain (the amygdala) which will let us carry out these actions without having to think about it. "Innovation" at this stage impedes this process.
What's the provenance for your muscle memory exercise, is it the right exercise to become fit, and is it the best exercise to make you as fit as possible.

To extend the analogy far too far, we're obsessed by "curls for the girls" and really don't like trying something new - ideally functional and related to the job we're about to do.

Equally, we spend exercise after exercise repeating the same training regime, which actually captures the need of a small minority of exercise attendees.


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What's the provenance for your muscle memory exercise, is it the right exercise to become fit, and is it the best exercise to make you as fit as possible.
That's one reason why I dislike the term. If you drive, you will appreciate how, in the early stages of learning to drive, it tales a lot of concentration to change gear and you have to look at the gear stick in order to operate it. With practice, you become more adept at changing gear, and every other aspect of driving, to the point that, sometimes you will realise that you can't recall significant portions of a journey, not because you weren't paying enough attention, but because you had allowed the part of your brain that deals with the mundane things (like breathing, which up to this point you were doing without thinking about it, but now that you are aware of it, you are in between taking a couple of deeper breaths) and for a really good example, drive an automatic rather than a manual for a change, and see what happens when, after you've settled in, you have a sudden need to react to something simple like a dynamic situation at a roundabout, and your foot goes to operate the clutch whilst your hand goes to change gear, because you no longer have the same need to consciously concentrate on gear changes and the subconscious part of your brain automatically takes control, allowing you to concentrate on more important things.

So, to answer your question, it's reps.
 
That's one reason why I dislike the term. If you drive, you will appreciate how, in the early stages of learning to drive, it tales a lot of concentration to change gear and you have to look at the gear stick in order to operate it. With practice, you become more adept at changing gear, and every other aspect of driving, to the point that, sometimes you will realise that you can't recall significant portions of a journey, not because you weren't paying enough attention, but because you had allowed the part of your brain that deals with the mundane things (like breathing, which up to this point you were doing without thinking about it, but now that you are aware of it, you are in between taking a couple of deeper breaths) and for a really good example, drive an automatic rather than a manual for a change, and see what happens when, after you've settled in, you have a sudden need to react to something simple like a dynamic situation at a roundabout, and your foot goes to operate the clutch whilst your hand goes to change gear, because you no longer have the same need to consciously concentrate on gear changes and the subconscious part of your brain automatically takes control, allowing you to concentrate on more important things.

So, to answer your question, it's reps.
Which is fine. But why are we limiting ourselves to subsequently behaving like everyone has just learned a skill and never aspiring to get past that basic level of competence?


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we tend to go in for an American-style application of rules and templates irrespective of the situation.
Which would be fine - but it’s the last proper ‘soldier’ training many people have.

It has bewildered me throughout the formal Staff Training that I have had that we don’t talk tactics
 

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