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What does the collapse of sub-prime lending have in common with a broken jackscrew in an airliner’s tailplane? Or the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico with the burn-up of Space Shuttle Columbia? These were systems that drifted into failure. While pursuing success in a dynamic, complex environment with limited resources and multiple goal conflicts, a succession of small, everyday decisions eventually produced breakdowns on a massive scale.
We have trouble grasping the complexity and normality that gives rise to such large events. We hunt for broken parts, fixable properties, people we can hold accountable. Our analyses of complex system breakdowns remain depressingly linear, depressingly componential - imprisoned in the space of ideas once defined by Newton and Descartes.
The growth of complexity in society has outpaced our understanding of how complex systems work and fail. Our technologies have gotten ahead of our theories. We are able to build things - deep-sea oil rigs, jackscrews, collateralized debt obligations - whose properties we understand in isolation. But in competitive, regulated societies, their connections proliferate, their interactions and interdependencies multiply, their complexities mushroom.
This book explores complexity theory and systems thinking to understand better how complex systems drift into failure. It studies sensitive dependence on initial conditions, unruly technology, tipping points, diversity - and finds that failure emerges opportunistically, non-randomly, from the very webs of relationships that breed success and that are supposed to protect organizations from disaster. It develops a vocabulary that allows us to harness complexity and find new ways of managing drift.
"Dekker is a specialist in things going wrong. He is the world's leading thinker on airline safety. He is concerned about drift into failure in hospitals, on oil drilling platforms, in financial services, on NASA missions. But my hope that the book would somehow be about the human condition in a more intimate way was not disappointed." (Australian Library Review)
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- Alan Bate
Drift into vacuous boredom
First of all, Dekker is an excellent professional. The book is great. Very informative and a thought provoker.
However, he is a TERRIBLE narrator. He mumbles through some sections and I found him robotic. It was painful listening and I couldn't wait for the audiobook to end. I almost switched off a number of times. Were it not for the content I would have.
So many times I found myself having switched into a non listening vacuous state of boredom solely from listening to Dekker talk.
Summary: great writing, very informative, but very poorly narrated.
1 person found this helpful
wish I could exchange for another title
Not a good work. I agree with the 2011 review by D. R. Martz now that I have used the text myself.