We may tell others there are no such things as stupid mistakes, but in our hearts, we know we ourselves sometimes make mistakes that qualify: e.g., sending an email to the wrong person, losing something important, making a simple but significant calculation error. As a leader, “stupid” mistakes can sometimes be compounded or magnified – so why risk them in the first place?
Adam Robinson, chess master and founder of Princeton Review defines stupidity as: “overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information.” He identifies 7 conditions that increase the likelihood of overlooking critical information and making stupid mistakes:
– Being outside our comfort zone or area of competence
– Being part of a group
– Information overload
– Being in the presence of authorities or experts (Including yourself)
– Being physically or emotionally exhausted
– Feeling rushed
– Being focused on an outcome
As school leaders, are we ever working on critical things without one or more of these conditions present? So, if conditions conspire to encourage stupid mistakes, how do we avoid stupid?
We can’t always (or even often) remove the conditions listed above, but we can decrease the likelihood they cause us to miss important information – and make stupid mistakes less likely by using analytic process. Analytic process provides the structure to ensure we gather, analyze and draw sound conclusions from the important information. What else might be possible to accomplish if we could avoid stupid?