Monday, October 24, 2011

From "The Progress Principle," face mistakes squarely

"The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work," by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, is the best business book I've read in a long, long time. The authors studied 12,000 diary entries, which tracked hundreds of workers across numerous working groups within several companies, and developed a fascinating and surprising picture of employees' "inner work lives"-- how they perceived themselves, their work, their leadership and companies. The crucial finding is reflected in the book's title: the most significant contributor to a rich and happy inner work life is continual progress (even modest progress) toward goals--the "progress principle."

The book is not about mistakes or learning from mistakes, but our favorite subject makes more than one appearance. Here's a short excerpt:

No matter how skilled people are, or how well designed and well executed the projects, problems and failures are inevitable in complex, creative work. We found that inner work life was much more positive when problems were faced squarely, analyzed, and met with plans to overcome or learn from them. Inner work life faltered when problems were ignored, punished, or handled haphazardly.

Learning from success mattered, too. Our participants' thoughts, feelings, and drives fared better when successes, even small ones, were celebrated and then analyzed for knowledge gained. They fared worse when success was ignored, or when its true value was questioned. [p 106]

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