Intelligent failures, are the “good failures” that are necessary for progress. The small and large discoveries that advance science, technology, and our lives. Pioneers doing something new will always face unexpected problems. The key is to learn from them, rather than to deny or feel bad about them, give up, or pretend it should have been otherwise.

Basic failures, the most easily understood and the most preventable. Caused by mistakes and slips, basic failures can be avoided with care and access to relevant knowledge. Mistakenly sending an email to a boss meant for your sister is a basic failure. Yes, some might call it catastrophic, but it’s basic nonetheless. Checklists are just one of the tools you’ll learn about for reducing basic failures.

Complex failures, are the real monsters that loom large in our work, lives, organizations, and societies. Complex failures have not one but multiple causes and often include a pinch of bad luck too. These unfortunate breakdowns will always be with us due to the inherent uncertainty and interdependence we face in our day-to-day lives. This is why catching small problems before they spiral out of control to cause a more substantial complex failure becomes a crucial capability in the modern world.

Learn more about or acquire the book "Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well" at HBS