Why Do We Make Obvious Mistakes in Business?

I had a post here a few days ago about a big mistake made on a job quote that slipped past everyone costing the company thousands of dollars.

I then left open the question as to how those kinds of mistakes can be avoided.

Too bad, no one offered solutions even though many wrote to tell me about a recent horror story at their business. Many said that these obvious mistakes were common.

But why?

Mistakes, the real whoppers happen at businesses because of three primary reasons.

1. The curse of knowledge. The more we think we know about a given situation and about our business, the more blind we are to things that outsiders might see. This is one reason I am successful—I can see from the outside what is hard to see from the familiar inside.

2. Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law states that anything that CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong. If there is a weak link, the chain breaks at the weakest point. Always. It’s physics and it has to be.

We average too often. Averaging causes us to ignore the outliers—the high and low data points which are the troublesome links. When we ignore extreme points because of averaging, we miss potential disasters. I’m going to write more on this soon.

It boils down to an interesting formula I saw in Science News: A + B = C

A=Forces of Nature (Heat, cold, wind, time, etc.)
B=Human fault (not error, fault) due to greed, hurriedness, sloppiness, laziness, etc.

In other words, mix the forces of nature with human faults and failures follow.

3. The Invisible Gorilla.

Watch the video.

See? When we focus intently on something we “think” we are supposed to focus on, we miss the obvious.

All three of these are correctable with a little effort.

Chris Reich