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  1. #11
    now! in shell form INA's Avatar
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    So . . .
    What happens in this case? If there is a group mistake, does each member externalize the problem, with the result that nobody learns anything because nobody is forced to confront what they did wrong?

  2. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by IF3157 View Post
    So . . .
    What happens in this case? If there is a group mistake, does each member externalize the problem, with the result that nobody learns anything because nobody is forced to confront what they did wrong?
    That's what I see happen often.

    One of the reasons, I think, that NASA took so long to narrow in on the Endeavour Foam issue is because people generally don't like major mistakes to have been their "fault." I have noinsight into NASA as an organization itself, but I do have insight into large organizations in general.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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  3. #13
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    But how do you know that the stove is hot stove is responsible?
    Simple observation says that the stove is responsible. One needs a reason to not trust their observations in order to conclude otherwise.

    If the problem is more complex, and a clear cause cannot be readily observed, then the matter needs to be investigated further in order to draw a conclusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo
    The question is most relavent when a group of people make a mistake collectively, and all of them point to different reasons that things went wrong.
    This question is slightly different, because a majority may suspect a similar reason but not want to blame anyone for social reasons. The whole group may know that they are responsible, but since there are repercussions for admitting fault, then people can invent different reasons instead.
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  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    This question is slightly different, because a majority may suspect a similar reason but not want to blame anyone for social reasons. The whole group may know that they are responsible, but since there are repercussions for admitting fault, then people can invent different reasons instead.
    I'd like to believe that. But my observation has shown that people really believe that others are at fault. They are not simply covering their asses. It comes down to not expanding their circle of concern to the point where thay can see how they could have affected the outcome.

    Nevertheless, even in group situations, I mean it as a personal question. How do you know exactly what you did wrong (if anything)? If the group dynamics are themselves faulty, is the mistake being in the group, or is it in mishandling particular things that could be done differently?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  5. #15
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Nevertheless, even in group situations, I mean it as a personal question. How do you know exactly what you did wrong (if anything)? If the group dynamics are themselves faulty, is the mistake being in the group, or is it in mishandling particular things that could be done differently?
    My philosophy about a group is that if one thing went wrong then it is obviously that one person's fault. However if the whole group screwed up, then it is the leader's fault. Afterall the leader is responsible for the group doing the task and doing it well. So if everyone is contributing to a big mistake somehow, then the leader was the one ultimately leading everyone in that direction. It's not anyone elses job to look at the big picture and make sure the group is doing the right thing. That is solely the leader's job.

    The problem here is that no one can blame their leader openly, and even if they could a lot of people will probably not think the leader is at fault anyway looking at specific details instead (of which there will be many). Either the leader has to admit fault, or someone above the leader must put him/her at fault. There is no advantage to a person in the group openly blaming their leader.
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  6. #16
    Senior Member reason's Avatar
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    Jennifer,

    I was careful to qualify my statement about natural selection with the words 'too often' -- my preemptive nudge toward the objection which you offer. However, even so, natural selection does not depend upon mistakes bringing an immediate death, but simply an alteration in the eventual reproductive success of the organism. Therefore, even mistakes which do not result in death will be acted upon by natural selection if they have adverse consequences for reproduction, though the selection pressure may be weaker and take longer to bring evolutionary adaptations.

    In the rhetoric of Richard Dawkins, each of us is the latest member of an unbroken line of ancestors reaching back millions of years, each successful enough to bear offspring and project their legacy into future generations. The knowledge earned in this grand process of trial and error is written in the blood and bones of those that failed, unable to model the world correctly or identify and correct their mistakes, while we are the legacy of those who guessed correctly and now take for granted this knowledge which is passed onto us in our genes, traditions and culture.
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  7. #17
    Senior Member reason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    The question is most relavent when a group of people make a mistake collectively, and all of them point to different reasons that things went wrong.
    This is a problem with which I am preoccupied. Unfortunately, I do not have time to give it the treatment which it deserves, but I will share this message which I recently wrote to Toonia in another thread, which highlights an example of the problem.

    Toonia,

    I agree that the problems of economics and politics are daunting. There is so much evidence to account for and many competing theoretical interpretations of that evidence. Think about the great depression, which scholars have been studying for the last 70 years, with all the benefits of hindsight and access to previously private documents, and yet still many disagree about its causes and conseqences, each taking history and learning from it a different lesson. There are some people who interpret the great depression as a market failure, whereas others interpret it as a government failure. The former learn the lesson that unregulated markets cause depressions, and an important role of government is to prevent or cure depressions when they occur; whereas the latter learn the lesson that government interference in the money supply causes depressions, and that government attempts to solve the problem will instead prolong it.

    The current conflict in Georgia is likely to be similarly difficult to understand. However, despite this, it is my opinion that you should not withhold judgement, since a theory is either true or false, and nothing else. It might be that you have no particularly strong conviction that a theory is true or that it is false, but it must be one or the other, and so by choosing one you have a better chance of stumbling upon the truth than not choosing either. The important thing thereafter is not to become attached to that view, and to be ready to give it up when (and if) it is founding wanting.

    In other words, the evidence does not speak for itself, but must be interpreted. The theories which we employ to perform that interpretation will determine the lessons which we learn, and so the lesson to learn is not as obvious as many often assume. Incidently, this is where falsifiability becomes important, since a theory which can interpret any possible evidence is a theory which cannot be falsified or learnt from, an explanation with no practical utility (though often the illusion).
    A criticism that can be brought against everything ought not to be brought against anything.

  8. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    My philosophy about a group is that if one thing went wrong then it is obviously that one person's fault. However if the whole group screwed up, then it is the leader's fault. Afterall the leader is responsible for the group doing the task and doing it well. So if everyone is contributing to a big mistake somehow, then the leader was the one ultimately leading everyone in that direction. It's not anyone elses job to look at the big picture and make sure the group is doing the right thing. That is solely the leader's job.

    The problem here is that no one can blame their leader openly, and even if they could a lot of people will probably not think the leader is at fault anyway looking at specific details instead (of which there will be many). Either the leader has to admit fault, or someone above the leader must put him/her at fault. There is no advantage to a person in the group openly blaming their leader.
    In many modern organizations, there is no official "leader" of a group--especially in small interdisciplinary groups. Mistakes ("bugs" in engineering disciplines) are often not found till much later on, and often by people different from the original designers.

    Think of it like a group school project on a slightly larger and more consequential scale.

    The important thing is not about placing blame, but in taking responsibility.

    Say a bug shows up that happened across interfaces, or would have required closer coordination of different disciplines. What is the lesson learned in the situation?--that the "leader" needs to see the big picture (rather unrealistic in my experience)? Or that I need to see more of the big picture (or more accurately, enough of the context of my work) to inform the appropriate people of the potential issues next project.

    Quote Originally Posted by reason View Post
    In other words, the evidence does not speak for itself, but must be interpreted. The theories which we employ to perform that interpretation will determine the lessons which we learn, and so the lesson to learn is not as obvious as many often assume. Incidently, this is where falsifiability becomes important, since a theory which can interpret any possible evidence is a theory which cannot be falsified or learnt from, an explanation with no practical utility (though often the illusion).
    I cannot stress enough how important this is. I will take an seemingly easily disproved theory, over one that "seems true" but cannot be falsified every time. On interviews, I used to give open ended questions on debug, listening explicitly for some (tacit or otherwise) understanding of the principle of falsifiability.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  9. #19
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    In many modern organizations, there is no official "leader" of a group--especially in small interdisciplinary groups. Mistakes ("bugs" in engineering disciplines) are often not found till much later on, and often by people different from the original designers.

    Think of it like a group school project on a slightly larger and more consequential scale.

    The important thing is not about placing blame, but in taking responsibility.

    Say a bug shows up that happened across interfaces, or would have required closer coordination of different disciplines. What is the lesson learned in the situation?--that the "leader" needs to see the big picture (rather unrealistic in my experience)? Or that I need to see more of the big picture (or more accurately, enough of the context of my work) to inform the appropriate people of the potential issues next project.
    Heh, it sounds like the problem could be lack of leadership.

    It doesn't have to be an official "leader". It could be a coordinator, liason, or whatever you want to call it. Ultimately there needs to be someone examing how the group is interacting together. If many people in a group are making mistakes, then ultimately it's the leader's responsibility to get the group back on course. Or if one activity is going to affect someone in another discipline, then the liason needs to communicate with that other person.

    If a project requires multiple people to complete, then ultimately someone needs to ensure that everyone is working toward the same appropriate goal. So yes, the "leader" does need to be there to see the big picture.

    that the "leader" needs to see the big picture (rather unrealistic in my experience)?
    I wouldn't doubt this is your experience, because most leaders attain their position without any regard toward the leadership ability they possess. Leadership is a usually part of a promotion, because the person did a good job in their previous position. They may or may not actually be a good leader. This is often not part of the consideration process. People are usually promoted to their level of incompetence as the saying goes.
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  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    Heh, it sounds like the problem could be lack of leadership.

    It doesn't have to be an official "leader". It could be a coordinator, liason, or whatever you want to call it. Ultimately there needs to be someone examing how the group is interacting together. If many people in a group are making mistakes, then ultimately it's the leader's responsibility to get the group back on course. Or if one activity is going to affect someone in another discipline, then the liason needs to communicate with that other person.

    If a project requires multiple people to complete, then ultimately someone needs to ensure that everyone is working toward the same appropriate goal. So yes, the "leader" does need to be there to see the big picture.
    Many things work better in a self-organizing format. Certainly having a "leader" is great to place blame on ("a single wring-able neck"), but often they are for show only.

    Yes, I am saying it is impossible to expect a leader to be able to do what you are suggesting in many cases.

    Say in microhip design, the Architects understand the architecture, the microarchtiects understand the microarchitecture, the RTL folks understand the RTL, the circuit designers understand the circuits, the package designers understand the package, Signal Integrity people understand the PC board interactions, the test folks understand the testing, the device engineers understand the device physics, the manufacturing people understand the manufacturing, the firmware people understand the firmware, the software people understand the software, the automation people understand the automation, the lithography people understand the lithography, and on and on.

    Most of the bugs we uncover are very subtle, and intricate. To say that some "big-picture" person should take care of such things is preposterous in my mind. The bugs however, show-up heavily in the "seams" (and there are always seems no matter how many "liasons" you add). Certainly shifting resources to reduce where bugs come from is within the scope of a manager or "leader," but closing the "seams" between the part I own and the parts that other people own is my responsibility.

    A similar situation occurs in the world society/economy/whatever. What is it that keeps it running? There are a lot of problems with it, but I still generally get what I pay for, and have a job, and I get running water, and electricity, and can get various services from medical to automotive. The same is true for most people in developed world.

    Should we hope for some "leader" of the world who would fix the worlds problems? Or should we be trying our best to fix the problems we see in ways that we deem achievable?

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    I wouldn't doubt this is your experience, because most leaders attain their position without any regard toward the leadership ability they possess. Leadership is a usually part of a promotion, because the person did a good job in their previous position. They may or may not actually be a good leader. This is often not part of the consideration process. People are usually promoted to their level of incompetence as the saying goes.
    This is part of the problem, sure. But, unfortunately things aren't always so simple. Which part of the elephant is the real elephant? Even saying "the side" isn't accurate. It is impossible to see the whole elephant (If your' thinking of some system of mirrors, remember it has insides, and CAT scans miss stuff too).

    Whatever the case about leadership, I hope I succeeded in showing some of the range of the question posed in the OP, and that differences in opinion of the lessons learned are in-fact non-trivial in many cases.

    The question still pertains to the personal lessons in these situations. If we believe the problem is a lack of leadership, what is the lesson we take form the "mistake," and more importantly, what do we do about it?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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