The Logic of Failure: Why Things Go Wrong and What We Can Do to Make Them Right

The Logic of Failure: Why Things Go Wrong and What We Can Do to Make Them Right

4.0 2
by Dietrich Dorner
     
 

Dietrich Dorner, winner of Germany's highest science prize, here considers why - given all our intelligence, experience, and information - we make mistakes, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. Surprisingly, he finds the answer not in negligence or carelessness, but in what he calls "the logic of failure": certain tendencies in our patterns of thought - such as… See more details below

Overview

Dietrich Dorner, winner of Germany's highest science prize, here considers why - given all our intelligence, experience, and information - we make mistakes, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. Surprisingly, he finds the answer not in negligence or carelessness, but in what he calls "the logic of failure": certain tendencies in our patterns of thought - such as taking one thing at a time, cause and effect, and linear thinking - that, while appropriate to an older, simpler world, prove disastrous for the complex world we live in now. Today everything is interrelated. We can't do just one thing at a time, because everything has multiple outcomes; we can't think in isolated cause-and-effect terms because all situations have side effects and long-term repercussions. With a charitable view of our capacity to err, Dorner shows that we act before we understand all the interlocking elements of a complex system. Faced with problems that exceed our grasp, we pile small error upon small error to arrive at spectacularly wrong conclusions. We too often ignore the big picture and seek refuge in what we know how to do - fiddling while Rome burns. Working with intriguing computer simulations of his own invention, Dorner exposes these flaws in our thinking. His examples - sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying - and brain-teasing thought experiments teach us how to solve complex problems. Together they make The Logic of Failure a corrective tool, a guideline for intelligent planning and decision making that can sharpen the thinking skills of business managers, policymakers, and everyone involved in the daily challenge of getting from point A to point B. Like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, The Logic of Failure will alter the way we conceive of change itself and transform our sense of the path to success.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Chernobyl atomic-plant explosion, observes Drner, was entirely due to human error involving the breaking of safety rules by a team of experts who reinforced one another's puffed-up sense of competence. This German psychology professor believes people court failure through sloppy or ingrained mental habits, whether the mistakes involve cleaning dead fish out of a garden pool, adding rooms to a schoolhouse, launching economic development programs in Africa or forecasting oil prices or the scope of the AIDS epidemic. Things go wrong, according to Drner, because we focus on just one element in a system complicated by interrelationships; we apply corrective measures too aggressively or too timidly; we ignore basic premises, overgeneralize, follow blind alleys, overlook potential side effects and narrowly extrapolate from the moment, basing our predictions of the future on those aspects of the present that bother or delight us the most. This ingenious manual will assist problem-solvers in all fields. (July)
Library Journal
Things going wrong is an all-too-common modern management experience. Pressed for time, an administrator makes a hasty decision that remedies the problem but creates myriad new problems for someone else. Dorner (psychology, Univ. of Baumberg, Germany), an authority on cognitive behavior, questions whether or not our habits of thought measure up to the systemic demands of profound problems such as environmental degradation, nuclear weapons build-up, terrorism, and overpopulation. Using computer-simulated "real world" scenarios, he measured his test subjects's problem-solving performances over time, and, not surprisingly, discovered that people court failure in predictable patternsfrom simple confusion and misperception to short attention spans and unwillingness to change tactics. All is not lost, however, for Dorner suggests that despite the repeated failure, we can learn to recognize defective management behaviors and correct them. Dorner's "only the facts" approach is refreshing; he offers clear arguments, convincing evidence, and well-reasoned conclusions. One of the best management titles of the year, this is a necessary addition to both psychology and management collections of all types.David R. Johnson, Fayetteville P.L., Ark.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805041606
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/28/1996
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
440
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.32(h) x 0.94(d)

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