FailureIn The Logic of Failure Dietrich Doerner offers a process-oriented approach to complex problem solving. There are no simple solutions; we must be aware of what can go wrong with human thinking.  Avoid possible pitfalls like the king who offered the reward of doubling the grains on the chess board, or the engineers who designed the Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors, in order that we might be spared bankruptcy or a meltdown.

Steve Ellison adds:

One of my favorite examples from this book is a study done in Sweden of how a fire chief might optimally deploy 12 brigades to fight forest fires. The best approach depends on circumstances, such as the number of fires, the wind, the amount of water available, the present location of brigades, etc.

Quoting Dörner:

A fire chief thus encounters situations in which one strategy is called for and others in which just the opposite is called for. … Experiment participants who try to use general, deconditionalized measures in a system like this will fail in the long run. A rule such as "Brigades should at all times be widely distributed over the district" is too general to be useful, and measures based on it will be wrong much of the time. The rules for action that apply here have to be more of the type "If A and B and C and D are the case, then X. But if A and B and C and E are the case, then Y. And if A and F and C and D and E, then Z." (p. 97)

It is a very good illustration of why fixed systems do not work.


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