Whenever a financial or technological disaster takes place, people wonder if it could have possibly been averted.
My guests today say that the answer is often yes, and that the lessons around why big disasters happen can teach us something about preventing catastrophes in our businesses and personal lives. Their names are Chris Clearfield and Andras Tilcsik, and they’re the authors of Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It.
We begin our discussion getting into how they got interested in exploring how everything from plane crashes to nuclear meltdowns to flash stock market crashes actually share common causes. We then discuss the difference between complicated and complex systems, why complex systems have weaknesses that make them vulnerable to failure, and how such complexity is on the rise in our modern, technological era. Along the way, Chris and Andras provide examples of complex systems that have crashed and burned, from the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown to a Starbucks social media campaign gone awry. We end our conversation digging into specific tactics engineers and organizations use to create stronger, more catastrophe-proof systems, and how regular folks can use these insights to help make their own lives run a bit more smoothly.
- What is “tight coupling”? How can it lead to accidents?
- What’s the difference between a complicated system and a complex system?
- How has the internet added more complexity to our systems?
- Why trying to prevent meltdowns can backfire
- So how can organization cut through complexity to actually cut down on meltdowns?
- The way to build organizational culture to get people to admit mistakes
- Why we have a tendency to ignore small anomalies
- Is it really possible to predict meltdowns?
- The pre-mortem technique
- How to use some of these techniques in your personal life
- Why a diversity of viewpoints actually works, albeit counterintuitively
- Why you should seek out people who will tell you the truth, and even give you contradictory information
- How leaders can mitigate complexity and conflict
- What is “get-there-itis” and how does it contribute to disasters?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Why Group Culture is So Important to Success
- Three Mile Island accident
- Deepwater Horizon
- Charles Perrow and his book Normal Accidents
- Delta Data Center Fire
- “Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway”
- “Starbucks Twitter Campaign Goes Horribly Wrong”
- What You Need to Know About the 737 Crashes
- Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster
- My interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Think Like a Poker Player to Make Better Decisions
Connect With Chris and Andras
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Recorded on ClearCast.io
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