UCL News


Mistakes win prizes in new competition

15 October 2013

A new competition asks medical professionals, people with diabetes and members of the general public to enter a competition to share their mistakes.

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The competition, part of a project called Errordiary, opens on 15 October and hopes to tackle issues such as non-compliance with medication, the 'blame culture' of many hospitals, and the more general fear of mistake-making.

Errordiary is based around a website where people can share their errors and resilience strategies by engaging with different media. People are able to share their posts via Twitter or directly through the website.

The organisers, who are academics from the UCL Interaction Centre, are offering a total prize fund of £900, which is broken down into a series of £30 prizes for the person that posts the most, the person the posts the most interesting error, the funniest error, etc.

Dominic Furniss, from the UCL Interaction Centre, said: "We want to stress that error is perhaps more normal and ubiquitous than people think and that error can be funny and very serious.

"The competition is to encourage people to post their errors and resilience strategies. We are asking the questions 'Have you done something daft today?" and "What tricks have you got to avoid errors?"

The competition is to encourage people to post their errors and resilience strategies. We are asking the questions 'Have you done something daft today?' and 'What tricks have you got to avoid errors?

Dominic Furniss

The ultimate aim of Errordiary is to see whether distilling and sharing resilience strategies to avoid error can benefit those that might want to adopt or adapt them.This is most likely to be effective if specific communities share tips and tricks within their specialist groups.

For example, David Cragg, a diabetes patient who has used the site, said:  "My fast-acting insulin is in a silver pen and my slow-acting insulin pen is in a blue pen. This helps me to remember because, in my mind, 'silver bullet' means fast and 'chilled blue' means slow."

Another example from the research includes a nuclear power plant controller who used a paper clip as a bookmark to return to a figure in the procedures they were going through - could this help other crews? What other problems and strategies could be shared for broader benefit? 

Furniss said: "People devise inventive but simple ways to reduce the likelihood of an error occurring and to improve their performance - this might be leaving an umbrella by the front door so it is not forgotten when you leave the house, labelling keys on a bunch so you can more easily differentiate which is which, or checking that all the pieces of the IKEA flat pack furniture are present before starting.

"This competition is part of research where we have been developing a framework and a vocabulary to investigate these patterns of behaviour. Early indications suggest that this perspective could be used for exploring important and under-researched areas in healthcare from a new perspective."

Richard Graveling, President of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, said: "Human error is an important aspect of ergonomics and human factors and is frequently blamed (not always fairly) when things go wrong. Errordiary offers a valuable tool to document and explore these errors and hopefully increase our understanding of how and when errors occur.  It also offers a chance for the wider public to develop a better understanding of human error and its causes."



UCL Interaction Centre