No merit to managing errors

I disagree that the fear of failure can be overcome by developing a culture of error management (Kiasu 2.0, or how to learn to love failure; Nov 13).

A failure is a failure. There are also good and bad failures.

A good failure is an action, decision or judgment that produces an unwanted or unintentional result.

This is best illustrated in the discovery of DNA, penicillin, aspirin and X-rays. It is seen in the entrepreneurial spirit of Colonel Sanders and Henry Ford. There is no disgrace in this.

A bad failure is an act or judgment that is misguided or wrong. This type of failure starts with bad motive and motivation.

For instance, dereliction of duty and circumventing prescribed rules and work ethics, resulting in damage, is a bad failure.

It is an unproductive and unhealthy culture to defend bad failures. It risks undermining the intrinsic value of good failure and could morph into a form of damage control to counter unfavourable publicity.

Error management cannot reverse mistakes and damage. Errors should be analysed and corrected to prevent reoccurrences, but they should not be mitigated. There is no merit in managing what has gone wrong.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'No merit to managing errors'. Print Edition | Subscribe