never make the same mistake twice

somewhere at the intersection of lean product development and systems thinking is one of my favorite ideas: never make the same mistake twice.

the lean side of that table is continuous learning. the systems thinking side is how you ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again. systems thinkers observe surrounding contexts and create structures that prevent known issues from arising again (see 14 habits of systems thinkers).

i genuinely believe one of the most significant parts of my personal system is this idea. as with most everything i do, it takes a small amount of energy each time it comes up, but over time, it creates massive gains.

a recent (somewhat simple, but still real) example: this past weekend i was in nyc and i lost one of my micron pen’s. i freaking love my micron pens and i try really hard to minimize my consumption of them by not losing them. last year, i made it through the year having used less than a single box (12 pens). so it’s a big moment when i lose one. i thought to myself, how can i make sure this doesn’t happen again?

the next day my friend, nate, had a little leather pen case out on the kitchen island we were standing at. i asked where he got it from, he said he made it and i could have it if i wanted because he could just make another one. i immediately thought, “i don’t actually need this little pen holder, but having it will help me not lose this pen again.”


in theory, not losing pens over time will save me money, frustration, and keep me from contributing to overproduction.

or something.