The Possibility of Failure


A few years back I was working with a client to improve information flow in an office.  The problem was too much waiting, as flow stopped due to batch processing and ever-changing bottlenecks due to variation in the cycle times of work required….sometimes sales order processing was the bottleneck and sometimes procurement, or the credit department, or engineering or scheduling………bottlenecks were not only creating problems, they were always moving. As a result required information was often not complete or accurate.

The projects objective was to quickly and accurately provide the necessary information to operations just before they needed it.

Clearly, we needed to change our approach to information flow.

They major roadblock was in the form of the accounting manager who made sure anyone who made a mistake would suffer immediately as well as suffer public humiliation.  Naturally achieving our objective took months, and sadly a few well-intended “scientists” were “burned at the stake” emotionally.  A sad story.

If we cannot tolerate mistakes we lower our ability to make improvements.  We need a system that limits or eliminates this threat to risk takers.  Any improvement process is filled with experiments, trying something new or in a new manner because the old way was insufficient.  Plan – Do – Check – Act (or adjust) is referred to as the “scientific method”.  We will watch and measure of outcomes of the experiment carefully (Check) then if experiment leads to insufficient results we discuss what we have learned from the experiment and as a team go on to, or develop Plan B.

Can you imagine if Einstein would have been fired due to his many “failed” or learning experiments?  Imagine the courage he brought to challenge Sir Isaac Newton.  A list of Einstein’s 23 worst mistakes is shown in the accompanying text.

Have Einstein’s courage, take risks, make waves.

Einstein’s 23 worst mistakes

1905 Mistake in clock synchronization procedure on which Einstein based special relativity
Failure to consider Michelson-Morley experiment
Mistake in transverse mass of high-speed particles
Multiple mistakes in the mathematics and physics used in calculation of viscosity of liquids, from which Einstein deduced size of molecules
Mistakes in the relationship between thermal radiation and quanta of light
Mistake in the first proof of E = mc2
Mistakes in the second, third, and fourth proofs of E = mc2
Mistake in the synchronization procedure for accelerated clocks
Mistakes in the Principle of Equivalence of gravitation and acceleration
Mistake in the first calculation of the bending of light
Mistake in the first attempt at a theory of general relativity
Mistake in the fifth proof of E = mc2
Mistake in the Einstein-de Haas experiment
Mistakes in several attempts at theories of general relativity
Mistake in the interpretation of Mach’s principle
Mistake in the introduction of the cosmological constant (the “biggest blunder”)
Mistakes in two attempts to modify general relativity
Mistakes and more mistakes in the attempts to formulate a unified theory
Mistakes in discussions with Bohr on quantum uncertainties
Mistakes in interpretation of quantum mechanics (Does God play dice?)
Mistake in the sixth proof of E = mc2
Mistake in the interpretation of the Schwarzschild singularity and gravitational collapse (the “black hole”)
Mistake in the seventh proof of E = mc2

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