Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Escape Fire and high reliability

I have bene rereading two books recently, Managing the Unexpected, (a fantastic read) and Berwicks Escape Fire. Berwick spoke about the Mann gulch fire disaster in Montana, about which Weick has written. Although at first pass, one wonders what lessons a forest fire in Montana has to delivering safe care in health, there are many deep lessons to be learned. This is a paper well worth reading. A few examples.

To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness. Wisdom is thus not a belief, a value, a set of facts, a corpus of knowledge or information in some specialized area, or a set of special abilities or skills. Wisdom is an attitude taken by persons toward the beliefs, values, knowledge, information, abilities, and skills that are held, a tendency to doubt that these are necessarily true or valid and to doubt that they are an exhaustive set of those things that could be known.
In a fluid world, wise people know that they don't fully understand what is happening right now, because they have never seen precisely this event before. Extreme confidence and extreme caution both can destroy what organizations most need in changing times, namely, curiosity, openness, and complex sensing. The overconfident shun curiosity because they feel they know most of what there is to know. The overcautious shun curiosity for fear it will only deepen their uncertainties. Both the cautious and the confident are closed-minded, which means neither makes good judgments. It is this sense in which wisdom, which avoids extremes, improves adaptability.

Partners and partnership are critical.

A partner makes social construction easier. A partner is a second source of ideas. A partner strengthens independent judgment in the face of a majority. And a partner enlarges the pool of data that are considered. Partnerships that endure are likely to be those that adhere to Campbell's three imperatives for social life, based on a reanalysis of Asch's (1952) conformity experiment:
(1) Respect the reports of others and be willing to base beliefs and actions on them (trust);
(2) Report honestly so that others may use your observations in coming to valid beliefs (honesty); and, 
(3) Respect your own perceptions and beliefs and seek to integrate them with the reports of others without deprecating them or yourselves (self-respect). 

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