Our first episode of Culture: Awesome is called “Black Box Businesses” and is a discussion of how we each were inspired by Matthew H. Syed’s book, Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance

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In addition to the book, in this episode we discuss some of the tools that we use internally to support a Black Box approach to learning from mistakes in our businesses.

Rebecca mentions the Google Form that she uses internally at Fountain to address mistakes or errors – here is a version of it; feel free to copy it if you find it useful:

Click to access the Google Form template here, or you can download it in PDF format here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the episode – we’re on all of the social links at the bottom of the page.


In this inaugural podcast episode of Culture: Awesome, hosts, Rebecca Lewis Smith, MD of Fountain and, Emily Groves, MD of Indigo Swan, share their passion for company culture and how they have created ‘black box’ businesses.

Introducing Culture: Awesome and black box thinking

[00:17] Rebecca and Emily introduce black box thinking and this first episode of Culture: Awesome

[00:47] Emily describes how their friendship grew in the last few years around black box thinking.

[01:23] Authentic leadership and the book.

[01:45] Women in business and company culture.

[02:32] Talking about the geeky stuff, play dates and sharing Audible playlists.

[03:40] Culture Shock event and keynote.

Black box thinking

[04:00] How Emily came across the book. IOD director magazine.

[05:10] Rebecca shares how she came across the book.

[06:23] Emily asks why the book is called, Black Box Thinking.

[06:42] Dealing with failure in the airline and medical industries.

[08:55] What Fountain do when something goes wrong.

[10:15] Emily shares a story from the book about a cult.

Integrating black box thinking into business

[12:12] How black box thinking relates to business practise.

[13:12] How Emily has implemented black box thinking into Indigo Swan.

[16:06] Rebecca shares the worst thing that can happen, in her business, if a mistake is made.

[17:54] Human behaviour, checklists and processes. Developing as a leader. Communicating better.

[18:55] Emily on encouraging openness in an organisation.

[19:45] Signots: the black box thinking process in Indigo Swan.

[23:49] How Fountain use the black box process.

Growing organisations and overcoming blame culture

[25:30] The challenge with people who are new to a black box culture.

[26:25] Rebecca describes the re-hab phase and having a non-hierarchical structure.

[27:57] Challenging “the way we do things.”

[29:19] Vistage and a culture of learning.

[30:00] How success is born.

[31:06] Celebrating black box thinking.

Resilience, authenticity and leadership

[33:23] Rebecca shares a short story about one of her favourite mistakes.

[35:51] One of many tools in a business’s evolving journey.

[36:43] Introducing the concept of black box thinking into a new business.

[38:40] How Rebecca dealt with a mistake that tipped her company briefly from profit to loss.

[39:28] Having a tolerance for, and the difference between, failure and incompetence.

[40:07] Rebecca and Emily wrap-up by sharing a bit about their own backgrounds.