Do we see close calls as wins or warnings?

I read a very interesting article in Wired Magazine last month titled “The Fire Next Time.” The whole article is about our tendency to see near misses and close calls as successes or lucky breaks. We can take a cue from hollywood. Pretty much every action flick depends on close calls and lucky breaks for success. The article mentions that we think of success or failure in binary terms… either something was successful or it wasn’t. The main illustration was the catastrophe of the Columbia almost a decade ago. It was determined that the culprit was a piece of foam that fell off the external fuel tank during blastoff, damaging the ship critically. The truth is that the problem of foam coming off during blastoff had been reported on nearly 80 previous shuttle launches. Engineers even warned about this problem during the shuttle design process. This was clearly a problem… or potential problem, but because nothing had happened before, it was a problem that was easy to ignore.

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