“There Is a Crack in Everything. That’s How the Light Gets in”: An Introduction to Mistakes, Errors and Failure as Resources

  • Elisabeth VanderheidenEmail author
  • Claude-Hélène Mayer


To fail in a task, to misjudge a situation and to make wrong conclusions, or to be unable to achieve a desired goal, are basic human experiences that occur in everyday activities as well as in longer-term projects in the context of personal development. But the assessments of what is a mistake, an error, or a failure depend heavily on cultural as well as individual contexts. Errors, failures and mistakes do not constitute objectively ascertainable facts, but are subject to the validity of certain rules within a context-dependent judgement. These rules can exist in various forms and degrees of explicitness and are adopted in the course of social negotiation processes. The aim of this book is to synthesise empirical research-based and theoretical perspectives on mistakes, errors, and failure in and across cultures, in order to provide a comprehensive view of contemporary research and practice which is accessible to researchers and practicing professionals internationally.

Mistakes or errors can, at the individual level, cause deep shame and embarrassment, and can lead to severe personal, organisational and collective crises. However, they can also be viewed as a resource for self-development and organisational, collective and societal change. At the organisational level, mistakes, errors and failure can have serious consequences for individuals such as employees or clients in the field of transportation, or in the context of medicine or chemistry, for example. At the same time, they can reveal inaccuracies in process chains, or weaknesses in a system, and they can also trigger contingent and sustainable improvement processes on all levels. Even in the political context, actual or perceived wrong decisions can have massive and long-lasting consequences for individuals, societal groups and subcultures, and for the society as such. Societal mistakes, errors and failures might then even be discussed in global contexts and in terms of their universal impact.


Mistakes Error Failure Resource Across cultures 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Vanderheiden
    • 1
    Email author
  • Claude-Hélène Mayer
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Catholic Adult Education of GermanyRömerbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of Industrial Psychology and People ManagementUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.Institut für Therapeutische Kommunikation und SprachgebrauchEuropa Universität ViadrinaFrankfurt (Oder)Germany

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