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TED Talk Tuesday: Why We Need to Talk About Mistakes

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

For doctors, the stakes are high every day. They're required to treat maladies and save lives on a regular basis, often performing miracles to help patients. And yet, it's easy to forget that they're human and they make mistakes. According to Brian Goldman, emergency room physician in Toronto and host of CBS Radio's "White Coat, Black Art," many of his fellow physicians would rather ignore the fact that their colleagues, like all individuals, are prone to error.

But in his TED Talk, he reminds us that regardless of industry, profession or title, the right thing to do when a mistake is made is to acknowledge it, talk about it and learn from it.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from his talk.

"[The system we have] has a complete denial of mistakes."

Mistakes in any profession can lead to serious consequences: from criticism to full blown lawsuits. It's human nature to avoid confrontation, but to thrive in any field, admitting errors is crucial, according to Goldman. It's the only way to grow beyond the misstep and improve at your craft.

"If I can't talk about my mistakes, how can I teach my colleagues so that they don't do the same thing?"

Ignoring or hiding mistakes doesn't benefit anyone, Goldman says. Though it's tempting to avoid admitting them, not only to colleagues but also to yourself, it's a wasted learning opportunity, according to Goldman.

No matter how hard it may be, discussing errors with colleagues, managers and mentors can solidify individuals' learnings the next time they're faced with a similar situation, and can also teach others how to handle similar hurdles.

"Errors are absolutely ubiquitous."

Learning from mistakes is part of growing as a professional. But just because learning takes place doesn't mean that a mistake won't ever happen again. Expecting perfection from human beings is simply unrealistic, Goldman says.

Rather than striving for perfection, Goldman urges others to accept and remember the mistakes they've made, as well as apply any takeaways to future challenges. Don't rush decision making, trust your instinct and ask for help when you're unsure about something, says Goldman.

Header photo: TED

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