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Here’s the paradox of progress: new technologies enable ultra-sophisticated systems with untold potential – that are far more vulnerable to failure than in the past. How, then, can we guard against meltdowns in our increasingly complex systems?

What do the following have in common: the disastrous attempt by Target – the US retail giant – to expand into Canada; Facebook’s failed initial public off ering; and the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster? They were all unpredictable “industrial accidents”, which are becoming increasingly frequent across all sectors. What else unites these three examples? Each was triggered by an accumulation of small errors: taken individually, these mistakes were of minor importance – but when they began to interact, they set a snowball in motion. With no check-back function in place, they ended in disaster. What lies behind these meltdowns are systems (technological, organizational, and project-based) that are ever more complex, operate on the tightest of deadlines, and leave little-to-no wiggle room for setting things straight when unforeseen mishaps come along. The age of exponential technological progress and uninterrupted acceleration is also the golden age of meltdowns. Are these failures inevitable? No – there are things you can do to limit their impact on your organization. The authors of Meltdown provide practical solutions to help you become more alert to the warning signs and, in response, transform the way you make decisions, manage your staff , and design your systems.

What’s pushed us into the danger zone

Excerpt from Business Digest N°291, November 2018

To go further

Read the full 3-part feature

Point of view

Managing meltdowns

Interview with Stephen Benett


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Spotting failures in time to fix them

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