10Creativity for Extreme Situations

10.1. Introduction

Referring to the September 11 attack in 2001 on the World Trade Center, David Stark (2014) indicates that each ‘normal day’ is ‘normal’ in a similar way, but that each disaster is completely unique. With each new disaster, economic or environmental crisis, we are surprised not to have thought about it before or not to have predicted its magnitude (Burt 2007). As journalist Warren Brookes pointed out about erroneous predictions1:

“This is like forecasting partly cloudy and getting a ten-inch snowstorm instead. After all, in economics as in meteorology, it’s the ability to predict stormy change that makes forcasting useful.” (Wack 1985, p. 75)

It is, of course, impossible to predict all adverse events in advance and illusory to have the ambition of zero risk. Managing the unexpected is what belongs to human beings and marks their superiority over technical systems (Hitchcock et al. 2009; Boy 2013). Indeed, in a dynamic, uncertain and risky context, problem solving and decision-making are all the more difficult, because neither the designers of the technical system, nor the operational staff have planned a procedure to deal with an adverse and unexpected event. “Checklists and do-lists are designed to deal only with “known” situations” (AAE 2013, p. 13). Experts agree that extreme situations, where the safety of people and facilities is threatened, require management that combines creativity and reliability. In extreme ...

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