How to avoid stupid mistakes by using a Knowledge Management System

stu·pid mis·take

/ˈst(y)oopid məˈstāk/

Repeating a past mistake and failing to change a course of action based on lessons learnt from past mistakes. “Coming here was a stupid mistake, I should have known better.”


Stupid mistakes are those that should not have happened because people should have known better.  They should have been taught what to do and what not to do or how to think or solve problems in such a way that stupid mistakes to not recur.  The first time a mistake happens, it is not necessarily stupid.  But, if the same mistake happens again and again, it becomes a stupid mistake. The most stupid mistakes are those that are repeated again and again.

Smart people and smart companies recognize mistakes, take responsibility for those mistakes, understand the cause of the mistake, and figure out a solution or best practice to avoid making the same mistake again.   But, that is still not enough.  If this information is closely held, no shared, and the solution not trained and reinforced, then that corporate memory of the mistake will disappear.  I suppose you can call this, “corporate amnesia” where the company cannot recall the past mistake or learn from that past mistake.

Stupid people and stupid companies repeat the same mistake again and again but wonder why bad things always happen to them and why negative results always happen.   Smart people and smart companies learn from these mistakes, try different approaches to achieve different results, and then integrate best practices into their culture.

Lessons learned.  

All the time, I hear from people about the concept of Lesson Learned.  After a mistake was made, I always hear, “well, that was a good lesson learned,” and my reply is always, “a lesson learned is a lesson learned only if we take responsibility for the mistake, understand the cause, document the case, find a solution, document the solution, train our people on how to recognize the conditions and avoid the mistake, and then periodically spot check, test, or otherwise enforce or reinforce best practices.”  Otherwise, it is not a lesson learned.

Knowledge management system.  

So, my advice would be to create some type of knowledge management system (KMS), which could be as simple as a spreadsheet on Google docs, where you document the mistakes, attribute the cause, define the symptoms, define the solution, and create some type of standard operating procedure, checklist, or protocol for people to follow (a set of best practices) to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing.  Then, share or publish this document with your team, train them on it, test them on it, and make them do it enough, follow it enough, or read it enough to make it a habit.  Then, periodically check them on it to ensure that the lesson has truly been learned and stupid mistakes are less likely to recur.

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