Learning From Mistakes

On the 21st October, columnist and author John Kay wrote in the Financial Times about the aviation industry’s “just culture”. He said “This starts with the recognition that mistakes happen and that organisations advance by learning from them. Its core principle is that individuals should acknowledge, and will not be penalised for, honest (but not reckless) mistakes consistent with their skill and experience”.

The Alliance of British Drivers has argued for many years that the same principles should be applied to road accidents with an independent investigation bureau. At present, anyone involved in an accident is advised to simply keep shtum for fear they will be prosecuted for an innocent error or temporary lapse. As Professor Kay said “If we ask ‘who is to blame’, rather than ‘what went wrong’, we encourage concealment and evasion of responsibility”.

Professor Kay is a very well respected economist and financial writer and was commissioned by the Government a couple of years ago to advise on stock market reform. His latest book “Other People’s Money” is a great analysis of the country’s recent economic problems.

And what was he referring to in the article on the 21st October. Why the responsibilities of directors in companies and the Volkswagen emissions scandal of course. But his words are surely worth heeding in other areas.

Roger Lawson

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