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Drift Into Failure: From Hunting Broken Components to Understanding Complex Systems
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Drift Into Failure: From Hunting Broken Components to Understanding Complex Systems

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  83 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published February 28th 2011 by CRC Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Apr 27, 2014 Mary rated it liked it
Really interesting ideas in this book, though it was a tad too scholarly for me to fully enjoy. It sure did give me a lot to think about, though.
May 08, 2015 Gwern rated it liked it
(101k words) Somewhat disappointing. Dekker focuses on how the occasional rare disaster is very complex, which they can be, but never gets off his high horse, instead spending a whole book talking about how everything is terribly terribly complicated.

He sets up a strawman in which attempts to improve things evidences a naive and naturally wrong "Newtonian worldview" in which tragic cases of reductionism run amok guarantee disaster, and particularly mocks the swiss-cheese model of failure. The pr
Dec 07, 2016 Lawrence rated it liked it
Systems thinking is a totally new concept for me, and the way this book laid out the basics was quite good. However, I'm left with the feeling that I've been elevated from the darkness of Newtonian-Cartesian inductive reasoning and reductionism, but don't know what's next. Or what to do with this new understanding. In my world of software development, we definitely use reductionism relentlessly to define root causes, and when faced with challenges or incidents that don't have root causes, we ...more
May 30, 2015 Alex rated it liked it
For a long time, I was looking forward to reading this book. Based on recommendations from my peers and several online sources, I was hoping to learn about how systems drift into failure.

Now, having read the book, I got some of what I was expecting: analysis of complex systems, new framework of looking at the problems without attributing cause, ways of analyzing safety. However, the book didn't quite meet my expectations:

- Just because it's harder to find the cause for failures in complex system
Jan 20, 2016 Donald added it
The hypothesis of this book is that many modern systems are "complex systems" in which behavior is emergent and explicitly not equal to the sum of the parts. Therefore managing safety risk can not be accomplished by simply managing safety risk associated with failure of individual parts. Instead one has to look at all types of relationships operating in and influencing the system that contribute to the emergent behavior. Also, designers and operators should provide both redundancy and diversity. ...more
Franck Chauvel
This book explains how "system thinking" is a viable alternative to reductionism and could shed a different light on failures of complex systems: from the Space Shuttle explosion to the Enron bankruptcy. I found it interesting but difficult to read: most of the wording about system thinking (e.g., "up and out" thinking) is defined in the second half. Still, I would recommend it, for the interesting questions it raises alone.
Catherine Ahern
Read this for a work book club. It was tough and I can't say I really enjoyed it, but I did find it very thought provoking, and I think the thesis will stick with me. I had hoped that he'd wrap it up with specific suggestions for escaping the gradual/incremental drift to failure, but that would have undermined his thesis--and probably have been a vast oversimplification and ultimately given readers a false sense of security. If only it were that easy!
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“Arriving at the edge of chaos is a logical endpoint for drift. At the edge of chaos, systems have tuned themselves to the point of maximum capability.” 0 likes
“In complex systems, after all, it is very hard to foresee or predict the consequences of presumed causes. So it is not the consequences that we should be afraid of (we might not even foresee them or believe them if we could). Rather, we should be weary of renaming things that negotiate their perceived risk down from what it was before.” 0 likes
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