Do we learn the right lessons from our successes?

Do we learn the real lessons that a success can teach us? A new post on the Harvard Business Review blog reminds us there are three common reasons why we may not be getting the most mileage from the things that go well for us, professionally and personally:

The first is the inclination to make what psychologists call fundamental attribution errors. When we succeed, we’re likely to conclude that our talents and our current model or strategy are the reasons. We also give short shrift to the part that environmental factors and random events may have played.

The second impediment is overconfidence bias: Success increases our self-assurance. Faith in ourselves is a good thing, of course, but too much of it can make us believe we don’t need to change anything.

The third impediment is the failure-to-ask-why syndrome—the tendency not to investigate the causes of good performance systematically. When executives and their teams suffer from this syndrome, they don’t ask the tough questions that would help them expand their knowledge or alter their assumptions about how the world works.

Lately things have been going very well for me. It could be my talent or that I’m just a winner – why ask why? Well, this blog post suggests that a more critical analysis might be a better option in terms of really understanding behaviors I can replicate, to extend my winning streak. Sure, it’s possible I am lucky, or that I was just in the right place at the right time. Or maybe the time I’ve invested in professional development and education is paying off. Maybe I am spending more time questioning, listening and inquiring, and those investments better inform my plans and actions. Maybe. 

Then again, I could be a star that’s finally hit supernova. What I know for sure: I’m going to work to make it last.

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