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How to Improve Your Performance by Learning from Your Successes

By Diana Kander – Entrepreneur, Author, and Speaker on Innovation

Diana Kander Innovation & Leadership Keynote Speaker at The Sweeney Agency

Did you know that it’s actually hard to learn from our successes? 

We assume that since things worked out, we did everything correctly, when in reality nothing is ever 100% a success or 100% a failure. And when we ask, “Was it successful?” we miss a huge opportunity to learn and improve. Researchers call this outcome bias.

BYU Professors demonstrated how outcome bias affected what professional basketball coaches did differently after close wins as opposed to close losses. Both a close win or a close loss in basketball means that a team played fairly equally to their opponents, but the researchers found that the coaches were much more likely to change their strategy after a close loss than after a close win. If you’re a nerd like me and want the full text of the study, just send me an email! 

So let’s not lose the opportunity to learn and adjust from our wins. Let’s stop asking “Was it successful?” and instead ask, “What could we have done better?”

I like to use a tool called the After Action Review to answer this question. After Action Reviews are an admission that no matter how well things are going, there are always opportunities to improve and we’re going to work as a team to constantly uncover those opportunities and get better with every single project.


This activity is a simple way to reinforce the 4 Keystone Habits of Innovative Teams:

1. Psychological Safety – Team members will become more willing to share their mistakes and
failures after completing a project because this exercise allows them to share these flaws without
feeling like their jobs are on the line.

2. Time to Invest – Team members understand the value of setting time aside to learn from their
mistakes rather than running away from them. Making this time for reflection increases the team’s
likelihood of success.

3. Process to Fight Bias and Build Self Awareness –The team seeks out the truth and flaws from one
another rather than just pretending that their plan was flawless.

4. Plan to Iterate – After Action Reviews enable teams to learn from their mistakes and identify
them more quickly. They understand that Plan A is just the starting point and course corrections will
be necessary. After Action Reviews demonstrate a team’s growth mindset and focus on continuous
improvement and agility.

Phases of the Review Process

There are three main questions that make up the phases of the AAR process. These are:

1. How did it go?
2. What did we learn?
3. What can be improved and how?

I use this tool after every keynote. And no matter how many times I’ve done it, I just go slide by slide and always come up with a long list of tweaks I’d like to make. You’ll have a long list too if you just give yourself the space to reflect at the right time!

Interested in learning more about Diana Kander‘s processes for Innovative and the AAR?

Get in touch by clicking here now.

Diana Kander | Entrepreneur, Author, and Speaker on Innovation

Diana Kander revolutionizes the way businesses look at innovation and curiosity. A New York Times best-selling author, innovation consultant and keynote speaker, she asks some big questions. What kind of culture needs to exist in an organization to ensure innovative ideas and practices? How has Snoop Dogg continued to innovate decade after decade to stay relevant to the next generation? What causes name brands to lose relevance with their customers and go out of business? Can organizational decline be prevented?

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/diana-kander/