The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations by Dietrich Doerner

Summary
  1. Logic of failure – certain tendencies in our patterns of thought that, while appropriate to an older, simpler world, prove disastrous for the complex and interdependent world we live in now
Key Takeaways
  1. 4 habits of mind and characteristics of thought that account for the frequency of our failures
    • The slowness of our thinking (streamlining thinking process causes us to omit key variables)
    • Our wish to feel confident and competent in our problem solving abilities (lack of ability to critically reflect on our decisions)
    • Our inability to absorb quickly and retain large amounts of information (humans don’t gather enough information to form new models efficiently)
    • Our tendency to focus on immediately pressing problems (ignore problems our solutions will create, lack of second (12th) order thinking)
  2. Humans ignore causal links and consequences, focusing on short term solutions that implicate the long term effects
  3. Frequent hypothesis testing and critical questioning vital
  4. People tend to regulate the situation and not the decision process
  5. Efficient problem solving revolves around complexity (interconnectedness of different variables), dynamics (autonomously moving) and intransparence (never fully aware of all information, engage in problem with information available to them)
  6. Defining goals is first step in problem solving and then gather appropriate level of information
  7. Convert unclear goals by ranking goals by urgency, viability and probability of success
  8. Must distinguish between delegating and dumping responsibility
  9. Must rank and delegate when we have more than one goal but when we solve one we may create another
  10. Must go beyond just causal relationships but to abstract relationships as well, we must know the hierarchy as well and think in analogies – exploring the unknown via the known
  11. Reductive hypothesis – analyze the final “piece” of a problem and reverse these effects in order to find the true cause of the problem or situation
  12. Strategy is a system of makeshifts, changing as circumstances change
  13. “Good” participants in the game have made considerably less decisions early on and asked many more questions than “bad” participants 
  14. Humans terrible at understanding the power of compounding. Don’t be fooled by the term “deceleration” – this is still growth and can compound massively over time!
  15. Laymen and professionals both face distortionary forces in decision and assumption making
  16. Don’t overgeneralize on local experiences. Rather, use sequential hypothesis to continuously ask questions, test and adapt
  17. Must first define goals, then build a model/strategy and then begin filling this model with information until we are comfortable to form a final conclusion
  18. Planning – condition element, action element and result element
  19. Can’t be too unqualified, must take circumstances and exceptions into account (don’t use “always”, “never”, etc.)
  20. We have to study the consequences of our measures in order to find opportunities to correct our incorrect behavioral tendencies and assumptions about reality
  21. Humans are inclined to maintain the illusion of competence by failing to reflect on their decision and problem solving approaches
  22. Often redirect our thinking from actual goals to the goal of preserving a sense of our competence
  23. We cannot teach common sense but we can put ourselves in positions where a clear sense is required, which will help us to develop a common sense for future encounters of a similar kind
What I got out of it
  1. Great book which looks at the fallibilities of our thinking and decision making process and how to improve it