We have all been asked the question, what lessons did you learn? They are part of a suite of oft-uttered variety of phrases which crop up every other day, I learnt my lesson, lesson learned, a lesson for us all. Cumulatively these lessons contribute to our collective experience.
It is too simplistic to say lessons learned is about responding to mistakes, it can also be about processes and the way you go a project, programmes and the timing of activities, ambition and resource, people and their interactions The list goes on and on.
Time is a huge factor. What you might do a year ago might be different from what you might do now. Often the lesson of a year ago might not be the lesson you might draw now. Circumstances change and we have to respond. Key is creating processes to accumulate and aggregate experience in the form of specifications, digital modelling but with the inbuilt capacity to adjust to take account of time and changes of context and circumstance.
That is one way of building knowledge - through evolving experience but there is another interpretation of lessons learned and that is research and in our projects learning from history. It is now embedded in our processes to explore the history of each place, at the outset to intuitively mine for clues for what to do, but further on in the process to provide evidence for a course of action.
That process is positive and exploratory, a nice place to be rather than just a catalogue of fumbles.