The art of making a mistake: French or British way?

The art of making a mistake: French or British way?

An error according to Wikipedia has different meanings and usage relative to how it is conceptually applied. It is a deviation from accuracy or correctness or can be an involuntary act adapted to a given situation.

To the contrary of an illusion, an error can sometimes be dispelled through knowledge i.e. knowing that one is looking at a mirage and not at real water does not make the mirage disappear.

However a mistake has a different meaning. It is, for example, failing to stop at a red light and getting a ticket for it by the police. Well, you should have known better. So how can we turn our mistakes into positive experiences by drawing upon the knowledge we gain from them?

In England, many successful entrepreneurs interviewed mentioned the fact that they failed many times, to the point of bankruptcy several times, but still they came back with a revenge and eventually became successful.

A combination of both success and failure is essential to an entrepreneur according to the article: diving back in: what second-time entrepreneurs learned from the first time around.

In British culture, ‘practice makes perfect’ is commonly accepted and one learns from their mistake. Creativity is, therefore, much valued.

In France we tend to follow procedures, leaving few gaps for creativity. However I noticed that the French spirit comes on board and creativity is developed rather fast when trying to cut corners or dodge the heavy procedures that ‘theoretically’ need to be followed.

A mistake is, in French culture, viewed as a failure. However the perception of being courageous for having tried tends to come to light.

This approach puzzles me as France is one of the most advanced country in experimental Research and Development and “the notion of error in science is not “a mistake” but rather a difference between a computed, estimated or measured value and the true, specified or theoretically correct value”.

According to an article published by  l’atelier pédaggogique “everybody agrees that you learn from your mistakes. However not everybody has the same attitude towards the result of making a mistake. The teacher, in France, acts as a judge who gives a good or a bad grade. Therefore it is not stretching the learning capabilities of the students.

“Making a mistake is perceived as positive and an integral part of the learning procedure. It’s the correction by the student in order to reach the result forecasted by the teacher “according to Jean-Luc Force.

Trying -> mistake -> correction = experience

The perfect teacher, according to JL Force, would know how to create a positive structured environment in which the student would dare try new avenues.

An English friend of mine teaches drawing and she kindly explained to me that rubbers are forbidden in her classes. I was most intrigued by this way of teaching until she specified that making mistakes when sketching builds the scaffolding of the piece of art being produced. I find that methodology really positive.

But how many times can one try and make mistakes before reaching the decision to finally give up or try one last time ?

An article published in the Australian businesswomen’s network written by Robert Kiyosaki “The magic of making mistakes” stipulates:

“The first thing that happens after you make a mistake is that you become upset. At this point of upset, you find out who you really are”. This article then describes the cast of characters who are brought to centre stage when upsets from mistakes occur:

The liar – : I did not do that

The blamer -:  It’s your fault, not mine

The Justifier – :well, I don’t have a good education, sot that is why I don’t get ahead

The quitter – : I told you it would never work

The Denier – : No, there is nothing wrong. Things are fine

Robert goes on to mention a good piece of advice : “If you want to learn and  gain wisdom from this priceless mistake, you have to let the responsible You, eventually take control of your thinking and apply the following mental Attitude Quiz :

What are your attitudes to risk, making mistakes, and learning?

And if you are upset with someone else or yourself, what lesson can you learn and be grateful for being courageous to have taken a risk and maybe learnt something?

In other words, it is taking responsibility for your error and once the disappointment is over and the situation accepted, finding the courage and the ability to spring back and try a new path.”

The art of making mistakes is neither French nor English. In my opinion it is the ability to assess the risks involved in an objective manner, establishing a plan A and a plan B, both viable, leaving an exit door within easy reach. Thus still leaving the possibility to change direction when required and adjust the decision making process to the given situation.

Applying the ‘no rubber available’ methodology.

June 2010


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