Most mistakes are just plain stupid.
“I just wasn’t thinking,” we say. Stupid mistakes aren’t intentional. But the genie is out of the bottle. The damage is done.
Sure, we can try to “minimize the damage” by claiming “we’re only human” and dismiss it with “everybody makes mistakes.” Not today. As the news makes clear, there’s no place to hide. Everything is transparent. Both individuals and businesses suffer from the harm caused by stupid mistakes.
So, what do we do about it? Hope for the best? Ride it out? Or, pretend it wasn’t that important?
Here are five ideas about how to avoid making stupid (and possibly harmful) mistakes:
1. Stop looking in the mirror
Maybe the troublesome attitude started with the company’s founder. It would not be surprising that someone with King as their first name might have an ego problem. And if you were King C. Gillette of the famed Gillette Company, it might rub off on the entire operation. For nearly a century, others in the shaving blade business tried to topple Gillette from its throne. It didn’t work, which may have caused the company to believe it was indomitable. If so, it was a stupid mistake.
(Related: 5 Traits of a Nondisruptable Advisor)
Then, came the disruptors with little money, but with low prices and home delivery. These interlopers, Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, were largely ignored, until they nicked the king. Finally, Gillette got in the act with a copycat “club” offering reduced prices and home delivery.
Point: If you keep your face glued to the mirror, all you see is yourself—and that spells trouble.
2. Face your limitations
The worst fate that can befall anyone is becoming functionally obsolete. It applies to structurally sound and safe bridges with too narrow lane widths and inadequate vertical clearances that fail to meet current traffic demands. When this occurs, a bridge is functionally obsolete. It’s a danger if it isn’t retrofitted or replaced.
It happens to individuals, departments, managers, and organizations, as well. They no longer have the skills, capabilities and knowledge to handle today’s demands. They’re functionally obsolete and, unintentionally, they make inappropriate decisions, stupid mistakes.
Point: Most of us rely on our past performance as a guide, failing to recognize that it’s inadequate, rendering us functionally obsolete and prone to making stupid mistakes.
3. Challenge yourself
During a family discussion of current events, the father answered a question quickly and confidently. A few seconds later, his newly minted son-in-law spoke up (politely) with a different answer from his iPhone, shocking the older man because what he thought he knew was wrong.
This is what two researchers call “the illusion of explanatory depth,” which means that we think we know more than we do, which is not only pervasive, but causes us to draw erroneous conclusions that lead to making stupid mistakes.