Blame helps no one. I recently listened to an interview with author Dave Zwieback whose recently released book is called “Beyond Blame”.
In the interview, Zwieback discusses how the concept of blame is something that has powerful effect on our lives both personal and professionally. Blame is attractive
to us because it allows us to feel like we have figured something out. But blame is rarely helpful.
Something goes wrong? Who’s to blame? Who’s at fault? Point the finger. Assign blame. Figure it out.
The problem with this way of thinking is it doesn’t actually solve for any problem, or provide any helpful insight into what to do next.
In the same interview (check it out here, it’s great), the host summarized an old parable that went something like this:
If a man is shot in the chest with a poisonous arrow, your first reaction is not to find out who shot him, why did it shoot him, what caused him to shoot him. Your first reaction is to pull the arrow out of his chest!
What would be possible if we were able to actually debrief a project or a conflict that occurred and instead of assigning blame and pointing our fingers at “where it all broke down” we agreed that things went wrong, we learn from our mistakes, and focus on what actually happened as opposed to who was at fault or who is able to take credit?
Blame and praise are two sides of the same coin. We avoid blame as much as possible, and we pursue praise as much as possible. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s a normal part of being a human being.
One of the skills I teach when I work with organizations that want to bring more improvisation to their work is deepening our understanding of collaborative work, and a “group mind”. Developing these skills allow organizations and groups to see beyond blame and discover what is really going on in their organizations, and it allows teams and organizations to develop and achieve clarity in a remarkable amount of time.
When something goes wrong, asking the question “Who’s fault is it?” or “Who’s to blame?” is the wrong question.
What would it look like if we asked “What happened, what can we learn, how will this help our team work better?”