I finally got around to finishing this article in Wired magazine on what our brains do when we fail. I won’t say a huge amount about it, except that a few things jumped out at me:
1. We don’t see failure as a potential success because we see what we want to see or we see what confirms our beliefs. When things go wrong, we have a hypothesis, a theory about what was supposed to happen. When our prediction turns out to be wrong, we think we failed instead of rethinking the hypothesis.
2. People who are on the fringes and not part of an inside group tend to see important new things. The money quote here:
There are advantages to thinking on the margin. When we look at a problem from the outside, we’re more likely to notice what doesn’t work. Instead of suppressing the unexpected, shunting it aside with our “Oh shit!” circuit and Delete key, we can take the mistake seriously. A new theory emerges from the ashes of our surprise.
3. A diverse group of people, those with a variety of backgrounds and no real common language often solve problems more quickly.
I was thinking about these things in relation to the work I do in Ed Tech. One, educational technologists are often, but not always, “failed” academics or part-time instructors, people who have a foot in technology and a foot elsewhere, making them automatically on the fringe of things. I was also thinking that a single faculty member who experiences only his or her own teaching probably can’t see the mistakes anymore or can’t see that there might be a new way to do things. And finally, as a whole, though you might have historians talking to scientists talking to sociologists, a group of faculty is pretty homogenous when it comes to teaching. So now the question is, what do you do about it?