The historical lens of lessons learned

One of the challenges of studying history, classics, and the past, is knowing how to read stories through the right lens: is it ours, or is it the lens of the time?

Do you know how this comes up in business? 

In your Lessons Learned. 

Lessons Learned

After a major project or process update, you get to tell the story of what happened and what you can learn. And we already know how to analyze lessons learned. 

The challenge remains, however: how do we learn the lesson through the lens of history rather than the lens of today? 

The history is more recent than antiquity or the Enlightenment, but still: what happened last week looks different when we use the lens of today, now that we know what the outcome is. 

Decisions made

For a truly honest understanding of our decision-making, we have to be able to use a historical lens, the lens from “then”. 

To learn the lessons of lessons learned, you must review your story with the ideas you had at the moment, not with what you know now. 

To stay honest, start before and review after. 

Desires vs reality

The second best thing after lists is tables. 

Use a table to keep yourself historically accurate. Write out:

What you didDesired outcomeActual outcome

The first two columns in this table are about the past. Fill them in with an honest historical lens: what did you do, and why did you do it? Don’t add any knowledge, opinions, or experience that came after the fact. 

Then use today’s knowledge to fill in the last column. 

You should hope that the middle and far columns are pretty similar most of the time. 

But you should expect that they do not match all of the time. 

Reality vs desires

Look at the last column:

  • Find where it doesn’t match the second column
  • Note where outcomes were better than expected
  • Note where they were worse

Examine both. 

What next

Do you know your desired outcomes? Schedule a 30-minute discovery call to find out.