It might seem philosophical and a bit off-topic, even touchy, but this kind of thought arises more than often, recurrently: Why don’t we just learn and stop repeating history over and over? Worst thing is it goes far beyond our professional careers, we see it in almost every single aspect of our lives.
From ancient times to present days, a great deal of energy has been put into the effort to mitigate our trend to make the same mistakes once and again and again. We can see it in the form of proverbs, inside millions of procedure description documents and, why not, even in the form of humorous laws like Murphy’s, Hofstadter's, Parkinson’s (the law of bureaucracy), Haak’s , and others.
Well, at this point you may have inferred, or may have not, that this post was also subtly motivated by side effects created by The Peter Principle .
It’s a fact that we, Homo Sapiens [one can feel free to add here as many sapiens predicates as required for feeling comfortable inside the evolution tree, LOL] are very creative and versed in many areas. That definitively holds true when compared to our predecessors with less sapiens predicates in the name. But we are also very prolific in discovering new paths to do the things the wrong way. Don’t you think? And engineers in general are not exempt from exhibiting this now intrinsically human behavior, yet good engineers’ mistakes rate curves show an exponential decay which is a function of their growth in experience.
Why not a function of age? Let us hear your thoughts about it.
The NASA Lessons Learned System, still not being the ultimate collection, is a very valuable resource and should be taken seriously. It documents many events with their derived lessons and recommendations. Documented events cover from avoidable and bizarre human errors like dropping things (see DSN Antenna Damaged by Dropped Handrail) to difficult to predict situations like the formation of corona arcing in a high voltage resistor during a rocket ascent (see High Voltage Power Supply Circuit Failure due to Hollow Core Resistor).
Yet this is not a new task for many of us, I think it would be a good exercise if we try to put together bits of our experiences to create our very own sort of modest Planet Analog Lessons Learned Collection . What do you think? I will share a few top-bizarre and some recurring and not-so-obvious mistakes that I have found during my career.