Here is an excerpt from 250words.com about three pieces of business insights taken from Henry Petroski’s To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design.
This blog post is about three pieces of business wisdom, with a hitch: they come from a book about engineering failures. The most catastrophic engineering mishaps of the 20th century are a morbid testament to human error—The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Three Mile Island accident, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapse in Kansas City were the result of poor system design and trivial mistakes. Yet the history of engineering is a dramatic example of human ingenuity. Engineers, more than most professionals, learn from their mistakes.
Henry Petroski’s To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design is the best book I’ve read this summer. If you’re looking for smart business insights but you’re sick of the business aisle, this book is a good place to start. It was difficult to curate just three insights from the book—nearly every paragraph was insightful—but when I skimmed my notes three ideas stood out. Each one is relevant to any industry.
Success over the Short- or Long-Term Does Not Necessarily Confirm Your Hypothesis.
Collapse Should Benefit the Industry
Good Engineers Search For Counterexamples
Article continues here 250words.com, more on book below
To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski
Business Insights: Success over the Short- or Long-Term Does Not Necessarily Confirm Your Hypothesis.
Petroski tells a brilliant parable of how a stable house does not imply sound building techniques. When I read this paragraph, I thought about the financial crisis. Subprime mortgages, credit default swaps, and collateralized debt obligations were profitable but ultimately bad for the economy. Extrapolating an idea that works in one instance without comparing it to a control group or widening the sample size can get you into trouble.
Business Insights: Collapse Should Benefit the Industry
This idea—what kills you makes the industry stronger—runs throughout To Engineer is Human but a passage from Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile captures it best. Do mistakes in your business make your business stronger?
Business Insights: Good Engineers Search For Counterexamples
The psychologist Gary Klein talks about the pre-mortem. Before you start a project you should imagine the following scenario: “It’s a year later, we’ve done the project, and it’s been a massive failure.” We’re more likely, as Robert Sutton explained to me in an interview, to imagine a more detailed and accurate future when we’ve consider worst-case scenarios from a future perspective.