Discipline, Self-Cultivation|February 2, 2009 12:21 pm

Western Cultures need this Word…

Hansei

A central idea in Japanese culture meaning to acknowledge your own mistake and to pledge improvement. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansei.

This is the kind of cultural antidote we need to counter self-delusion, a human failing discussed more deeply here http://uventure.net/blog/2008/11/02/the-idol-delusion-factor/.

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4 Comments

  • I believe the stigma around “failure” in western culture is what holds our education systems within the realms of mediocrity and, ultimately, explains the death of innovation in Canada. I agree, Chris, that if we can embrace the concept of hansei (which WikiPedia contrasts with the North American practice of scapegoating) then we dramatically increase chances of progressing to a society that is able to adapt to – and then solve – challenges facing humanity.

    If have a question though: how do we practice making mistakes? Or better, how do we practice living with dissonance?

  • Great topic Chris! I agree that this is just the type of cultural antidote that will allow the freedom and flexibility necessary for our changing times.

    Greg: I agree with your points behind the stifling of creativity and also wonder how to get this practice into the school systems. I shudder when I think about the “red pen” that used to mark up the pages with evidence of my failures… Since school is such an important institution when it comes our conditioning, perhaps this would be the place to start the revolution to fail forward!

  • Greg & Chris;
    Is that we should practice making mistakes, or practise learning from the mistakes we make?

    My understanding of pushing the leading edge means that we are able to identify the patterns of those mistakes and incorporate the lessons learned. Too often I find I am quick to admit a mistake, but not so quick to figure out what it was that I was to learn from that experience (the whole head against brick wall scenerio).

    g

  • That’s a good point, Gena. I would go so far as to say that you can’t do leading edge learning without making mistakes. Designing a new product, starting a business, addressing a social issue all require the ability to wade through the missteps and complexity of pioneering.

    Hansei is an acknowledgment that people have difficulty overcoming the social pressure (whether in school or on the job or in front of our peers) of showing vulnerability.

    What I loved about working with other engineers was that it was always about building the best product. Whatever frustrations we had, whatever personal conflicts, in the end it was the quality of the product that mattered. Finding mistakes in the design was a game.

    Now if we can hold that higher standard for our conduct (much harder), then the dissonance has more of the flavour “doh, that was stupid.” But then that’s an engineer’s perspective on living with dissonance. :-)

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