Analyzing failures and the role of feedback.

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Numbers & Statistics, Random facts and WTFs, Rants

During World War II, British Airforce was sending hundreds of planes every day to the continent to combat Germans. Not many of them were returning home.

Most of the planes that were returning to the bases were badly damages by bullets and shell splinter. British engineers were carefully analyzing the data, trying to find any patterns. They observed that, statistically, planes were most likely to receive damage in the wings and tail areas. They also observed that damages to the fuel tank and the pilot cabin were quite rare.

Based on this data, they decided to add more armor to the wings and the tail section.

It didn’t help.

Their logic was right, but they failed to consider one vital thing: they were analyzing the successes, and not the failures. The most useful information was on the planes that didn’t return. It was actually the damage to the fuel tank and the pilot cabin that was fatal. And those planes that received bullets in all the other sections were just lucky.

Always try to analyze your failures! It’s important to know not only what works, but what doesn’t work as well. Avoiding mistakes is crucial during any project!

If you did bad on an essay, take it apart and see what went wrong in order to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Don’t hesitate asking people for feedback. And try to give feedback to others as well. A rational critique is always helpful (though I often can’t get it from people… Australians seem to be excessively polite and tell people only the things they want to hear, avoiding giving unpleasant (though necessary) feedback and judgment)…

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