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Posted by Sarah Brown on 02 Nov '19

Are you breeding scapegoats? Why you need a culture of pioneer learning.

Looking for scapegoats rather than learning when things go wrong can have serious consequences for business

People seem to be searching everywhere for scapegoats and they are far from an endangered species and seem to be too easy to find. It seems almost satisfying if there is someone or something to blame because they become the scapegoat and get rid of them and everything is sorted. In fact, the term comes from the Bible where that literally happens. A scapegoat is an animal that is ritually burdened with the sins of others, and then driven away into the desert.

It happens in large and small examples. Both Bob and I play the card game bridge and the way it is scored can make it very obvious when someone makes a mistake.

However, the bridge partnerships that thrive are those where instead of blame and scapegoating there Is joint learning. Together the pair are curious about what went wrong how ‘we’ can improve not ‘you made a mistake partner’!

When I bid incorrectly or play the wrong card I don’t purposely do it and the only way I can improve is to learn what I did wrong and develop a strategy to help me avoid doing it again.

Pioneer learning – a principle of a Responsible Organisation

In the workplace understanding why something happened, having a curious culture creates an organisation that will pioneer learning and lays the foundation for future success.

A blame culture rather than a curious culture where people think they may become the scapegoat has several serious consequences:

  • People are scared to fail and so don’t suggest or try new things in case they go wrong and get blamed – this impacts innovation and improvement
  • People hide failure if they can
  • If a failure happens people try to blame others and/or not take responsibility
  • People waste time trying to cover themselves – the classic copying people on emails etc
  • Blame is negative and a negative culture saps energy

Pioneer learning is one of the 15 principles of the Responsible Organisation Charter (initially known as the Ethical Wheel of Success).

Learn more about the other principles and the Charter itself:

The Responsible Organisation Charter principles

What public bodies can do to avoid something like the Nottinghamshire child sex abuse scandal

5 compelling reasons why the wheel of success runs faster when you commit to an ethical business