As a scholar of decision-making, I’ve long believed that one of the most important things you can do to improve your decisions is to freely admit your own errors. I’ll start by admitting some of my own in advocating this idea.
I first encountered this notion in a book by Jonah Lehrer called How We Decide. I liked the book so much that I assigned it to my MBA students in a decision-making class. Mr. Lehrer was later caught by journalists and readers in numerous instances of fabricating quotes and recycling his own work. In July 2012 publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt halted digital book sales of Mr. Lehrer’s nonfiction book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” after the author admitted to fabricating quotes from Bob Dylan. He later resigned from the New Yorker after discoveries that he sometimes recycled his own material, from older New Yorker blog posts and other past columns, for newer stories.
My assigning the book was an error, if an innocent one.
One of the passages I loved in Mr. Lehrer’s book was about Tom Brady, my hometown Patriots (former) hero, now accused by the NFL of instructing his assistant to destroy a cellphone that may have included text messages linking him to the NFL deflated football scandal. Mr. Lehrer described Mr. Brady as a “student of his own errors.” By that account, and others I’ve read as well, Mr. Brady devotes considerable attention to reviewing and analyzing his quarterbacking mistakes. He watches game films of his interceptions and incompletes over and over. I touted his focus on his on his own errors in books and speeches, which turns out to be another error of mine.