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Meet The Author with Chris Clearfield

By Tamara Parris
Published: January 5, 2022 | Last updated: January 5, 2022 08:09:12
Key Takeaways

Why are safety systems the biggest single source of catastrophic failure in complex, tightly coupled systems?

Join us as author Chris Clearfield shares with us insights from his most recent book "Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It" with co-host Gary Wong and our community members.

Today, we are in the golden age of meltdowns. More and more of our systems are in the danger zone, but our ability to manage them hasn’t quite caught up. The result: things fall apart. This book is for people to understand that preventing meltdowns is within their grasp.

  • Why do our systems fail and meltdowns occur?
  • Why are safety systems the biggest single source of catastrophic failure in complex, tightly coupled systems?
  • How can Dissent and Diversity help us avoid failure in a complex world?
  • How can we make meltdowns less likely without involving painful trade-offs?

View book:


00:56:45Tanya Hewitt:I recall Sidney Dekker saying that Barry Turner with Man Made Disaster had hit on some of the same themes as Perrow, earlier, but as Turner was not American and Perrow was, Perrow's study got the accolades. Interesting sociology there too!
01:10:55Tanya Hewitt:Loved that insight - power structures need to be talked about far more (Foucault was on to something!)
01:13:33Suzanne Jackson:Yes Tanya, because top-down authority only goes so far - you have to have everyone bought into and wanting it - the capillary of power.
01:15:11Tom Osorio IMechE, industry rep:Stories are very powerful - do accidents happen when we don't understand the stories of all relevant players in the system. Or still worse senior management tell stories and stop listening, let alone thinking about the implications of what they are being told.
01:15:11Safeopedia:View book:
01:16:07Safeopedia:connect with Chris:
01:17:29Tom Osorio IMechE, industry rep:Children learn by falling - and high feedback. High reliability super high risk organisations can easily stop learning in this way? Create 'safe tumbles' to learn with?
01:19:47Tanya Hewitt:Yes @Tom - microexperimentation!
01:22:11Tanya Hewitt:I remember saying years ago the approach of only caring about regulating after failure is like kindergarten regulating - needing something to happen in order to react. The real skill is in the regulating in the absence of disaster.
01:23:48Tom Osorio IMechE, industry rep:Regulating after: education through punishing errors.
01:26:00Tanya Hewitt:Love this - our incentive structures reward what we don't want. This is a real issue.
01:29:07Tanya Hewitt:I remember when I was learning about patient safety, there were conferences devoted to importing CRM in operating theatres - but the issue turned out to be less cookie cutter adoption, but more local adaptation - where the fundamentals of CRM to aviation might not be recognized during surgery, questioning if hospitals were learning anything. It was fascinating.
01:30:48Safeopedia:great point Tanya
01:30:52Tanya Hewitt:This is why delayed gratification is such an interesting study! (Look at where we are with this pandemic right now …)
01:32:46Tanya Hewitt:cognitive diversity doesn't get the accolades that race, gender diversity seems to
01:34:40Tanya Hewitt:The Divided Brain is a fantastic film on this stuff
01:39:03Tanya Hewitt:Whispers of Marshall McLuhan (the medium is he message)
01:41:39Dan Suess:. . . and then when dealing with multiple organizations (as an independent consultant) the whole picture becomes even more interesting in looking to assist in facilitating "change" for the overall improvement for each organization.. - This too is often a similar challenge within a multi site organization, as a H&S internal professional..
01:46:48Dan Suess:really like the view of being seen as the "Trusted Advisor"
01:47:09Michael Ellerby:Thanks all
01:47:13Jim Marinus:thank you Chris
01:47:25Dan Suess:Chris,All the best to everyone for the Holiday Period!!h

Our Guest

Chris Clearfield is the Co-Founder of System Logic and Co-Author of MELTDOWN: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It and founder of System Logic

Chris Clearfield is a principal at System Logic. Before starting System Logic, he worked as a derivatives trader at a prestigious proprietary trading firm distinguished by its ability to understand and hedge risk. After years as a trader in New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, his role matured from trading to analyzing the financial and regulatory risks inherent in the business of technologically complex high-speed trading and devising policies to mitigate those risks. He holds an A.B. from Harvard College, where he studied physics and biology, and is a licensed commercial pilot.


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Written by Tamara Parris

Profile Picture of Tamara Parris

Tamara Parris is the VP of Community and Business Development at Safeopedia, and owner of EHS Professionals Group on LinkedIn. Her passion is working with other EHS Professionals to collaborate in thought leadership, networking and connecting our industry peers to resources that will increase profitability and safety practices within their workplaces. Tamara has been in the Health and Safety field for over 20 years, her industry experiences include the Construction sector, CCTV and Security, and Commercial Retail industries.

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