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Friday, March 9, 2012

Errors of omission are more critical than errors of commission in your life

An error of commission occurs when an individual does something that he should not have done. For instance, when an individual fails to complete an assigned task satisfactorily, or when an individual makes an error in submitting his plan.

An error of omission occurs when an individual fails to do something that he should have done. For instance, when an individual fails to ask his boss ' how his task performance is going to be measured' before commencing the task, or when an individual fails to ask ' how is his plan going to be rated' before making his plan.

Errors of omission happen when a person misses an opportunity by failing to do something. When a chartered accountant (CA) does not find a way to use his accounting knowledge in a software company, he is missing opportunity of utilising his knowledge. This error of omission is difficult to spot. But when the CA leaves the company because he is dissatisfied after few years of working in a software company, he is blamed for the wrong decision. This error of commission is easy to pick.

In career, the errors of omission are more difficult to catch, because they are caused when a person has not taken preventive steps. In contrast, errors of commission are easy to catch because they are major causes of distress and frustration. When a student fails to choose the right career-path and instead follows a career-path that everyone is following, the student rarely notices the error he/she is making. But when he/she gets poor marks, everyone notices his/her error of choosing career-path. When a graduate fails to take actions that will maximise his/her advantages of joining a science, commerce or engineering stream, the student is not blamed. He is instead blamed when he fails to find a job, which is an error of commission.

The story continues further. When a professional takes up a job without understanding what 'he can do' in the job, this error is rarely noticed. But when he complains that he is stuck up in a job because he cannot grow further, he is blamed because it is an error of commission. When a person marries without knowing 'what challenges are involved in sustaining a marriage', this error is not even noticed. But when the same person complains about his marital discord, his error of commission is immediately noticed.

At the age of 45, when a successful executive is not able to find anything meaningful in life, everyone notices the error of commission. But when the same executive did not take enough actions early in his life to find meaning in life, this error of omission was not even noticed.

As you would have noticed from the above examples, the errors of omission can be avoided only when you take help from a mentor or coach, before the event: either before marriage, or while taking up the job, or before you are successful. On the other hand, you will find individuals who will take help from the mentors or coaches only after the event: when they have failed after a marriage, or when they are dissatisfied in the job, or when they have failed. In short, in career, if you focus on avoiding errors of omission, you will gain more than if you focus on avoiding errors of commission.

What can you do to avoid errors of omission? Here are three suggestions:

1. Find coach/mentor when you are taking up anything new: be it joining a new stream like engineering or commerce after 12th class, or taking up a new job, or finding someone to marry, or relocating to a new place. And find this mentor before the new event is going to happen. Because this gives you enough time to equip yourself with the skills, if required.

2. Find coach/mentor when you are succeeding. Because success gives you time to pause and learn, knowing what has caused success is very useful in time of 'failure', because in failure you have very little time to maneuver. This helps you to focus on prevention, rather than cure.This is a smarter strategy.

3. Focus on avoiding error of omission in the core activity. For instance, focus on 'how to improve the performance' in your core job, course or activity. If you fail to do so, you are forced to focus on how to 'avoid blame' of poor performance later. In the earlier blog, we saw that if we avoid taking feedback on performance to improve our performance, we naturally depend on perceptions to avoid the blame of poor performance.

If you are committing errors of commission, it is the sign that you are constantly doing the catch-up in your life. It is time that you focus on errors of omission. Which strategy are you using to avoid errors of omission?