'American Sniper' Success Could Taint Jury Pool In Trial Of Chris Kyle's Accused Killer, Says

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After a sour ending to a not-so-good relationship and a moment in a dressing room surrounded by skinny jeans that didn't fit," 29-year-old Brooke Birmingham from Quad Cities, IL, realized that she needed to start taking care of herself.

Learning is the process of updating our theories. In some cases personal experience alters them. For example, Steve Jobs recounted in a 2005 graduation speech at Stanford University how the inclusion of multiple typefaces and proportional spacing on the first Macintosh stemmed from the calligraphy course he took after dropping out of college. But members of an organization also learn together. Experience with both winners (the iPod) and losers (the Newton) has caused Apple, as a company, to update its theories of what leads to successful products.

From this perspective, learning is all about understanding why things happen and why some decisions lead to specific outcomes. This understanding does not come automatically. We make a conscious choice to challenge our assumptions and models. And usually, we do so as the result of a failure. This has been true from the time we first tried to walk or ride a bicycle. We fall down, it hurts, and we try another approach. An amazing number of high-ranking executives report that early failures in their careers taught them lessons that ultimately led to their success. Failure provides a motivation for organizations to learn, too.

But what about success? Success does not disprove your theory. And if it isn't broken, why fix it? Consequently, when we succeed, we just focus on applying what we already know to solving problems. We don't revise our theories or expand our knowledge of how our business works.

There is nothing wrong with toasting your success. But if you stop with the clinking of the champagne glasses, you have missed a huge opportunity. When a win is achieved, the organization needs to investigate what led to it with the same rigor and scrutiny it might apply to understanding the causes of failure.

The search for causes of success may also identify factors that may be hard or even undesirable to replicate. In one project we studied, a group responsible for developing the software for a complex electronic system was so far behind, it risked delaying a strategic launch. By doubling the size of the team and working 80-hour weeks, the group finished in the nick of time. The product was a major commercial hit. Even so, the company wisely conducted a detailed postproject assessment. While lauding the software development team's dedication, the assessment highlighted critical problems in its process that needed to be fixed.

The challenge, of course, is to apply the same degree of rigor whether things are going well or badly. Consider performance evaluations. We all tend to spend much more time reviewing the performance of the employee who is struggling than of the one who is cruising along. However, understanding the reasons behind the good performance of successful employees may bring to light important lessons for others.

When the time lag between an action and its consequences is short, it's relatively easy to identify the causes of performance. The problem is that in many cases, the feedback cycle is inherently long. In industries like pharmaceuticals and aerospace, decisions made today about new products or specific technologies to pursue will not bear fruit (or flop) for a decade or more. Unless you have the appropriate time frame for evaluating performance, you are likely to misconstrue the factors that led to success or failure. By understanding the appropriate time dimensions, you can prevent yourself from being fooled by randomness" (to use Nassim Nicholas Taleb's famous phrase).

When things go well, our biggest concern is how to capture - http://search.un.org/search?ie=utf8&site=un_org&output=xml_no_dtd&client... what we did and make sure we can repeat the success. Replication is important; we need to spread good practices throughout our organizations. But if the chief lesson from a successful project is a list of things to do the same way the next time, consider the exercise a failure.

Tools like Six Sigma and total quality management have taught us to dig into root causes of problems. Why not use the same approach to understand the root causes of success? Institute a phase in the process where each factor that contributed to success is classified as something we can directly control" or something that is affected by external factors." Factors under your control can remain part of your winning formula. But you need to understand - https://www.Google.com/search?hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&q=understand&btnI=lucky how external factors interact with them.

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