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Managing the Unexpected: Sustained Performance in a Complex World, 3rd Edition by Kathleen M. Sutcliffe, Karl E. Weick

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Chapter 1Mismanaging the Unexpected

“A breakdown is not a negative situation to be avoided, but a situation of nonobviousness.”1

—Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores

“Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown—the first instinct is to eliminate those distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none.…The first idea which explains that the unknown is in fact the known does so much good that one ‘holds it for true.’”2

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Nonobvious breakdowns happen all the time. Some are a big deal. Most are not. But which are which? The answer to that question is hazy because we tend to settle for the “first explanation” that makes us feel in control. That explanation turns the unknown into the known, which makes ...

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