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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 3Principle 1: Preoccupation with Failure

“As soon as a person begins any action whatsoever, the action starts to escape from his intentions, it enters a sphere of interactions and is finally grasped by the environment in a way that may be contrary to the initial intention.”1

—Edgar Morin

As actions begin to escape from intentions, they usually don't do so suddenly. Instead, they generate a series of emerging cues that suggest escaping is under way. And noticing these subtle changes as they unfold is the object of a preoccupation with failure. Preoccupations with failure are evident in this sample of overheard comments focused on reliability:

  1. “We haven't made that mistake that way before.”
  2. “Once you've seen one, you've seen one.” ...

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