3Q Book Review: The Logic of Failure

April 13, 2010

The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner

What’s the point? The premise of the book is that humans are notoriously bad at thinking through complex systems. We can’t plan or predict well and we don’t manage them well once we’re entangled in them. He presents a number of studies (real life and experiments) to explore this, discussing specific failure modes.

How was it? Brutal. The stories were fascinating and I do not disagree with his premise at all (it’s pretty fundamental to how I perceive government). But the delivery … ouch. Un-useful levels of detail that go on and on. I wish there was more specific guidance there, but ultimately it isn’t a business book, so maybe not fair to ask.

Who should read it? Decision makers in business or government (or caretakers of any complex system) would get value from the first few chapters and the last chapter or two. The middle is probably good content if your a psychologist. As a guy trying to be better at his job, that content was useless to me.