Day 2 - Imperfection

Day 2: Humans are the most imperfect machines we know. 

Podcast: Revisionist History

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Episode: Blame Game

Thoughts: Human error. It's so common, that simply saying "we're only human" explains why something went wrong. Humans are imperfect, yet in tough situations we believe we're anything but. What if for a moment we look at the events that go wrong as human errors. 

It's all too easy to overreact when things do not operate as intended, whether they are machines or people. My surface pro was returned to Microsoft last week, the screen flickered. It's easy to say the machine was the problem. The machine was only trying to operate as intended. If you step back and look at error, you realize that symptoms are merely the effect, not the cause. What if the screen was not properly installed or handled. Those are possible causes that lie in human error, not machine error.

In this podcast, Gladwell provides an example of runaway cars, where the brakes failed to work. We assume the cause originates from the entity where the effect is seen. A driver tries to apply the brakes but the brakes do not work, thus the problem is in the car . We turn a blind eye to how human error could play a role, where the driver may not be applying the correct peddle. 

This concept of the cause of an error being different than where the effect shows up also applies to organizations. Employee burnout is seen as a problem with the functioning capability of the employee. What if the organization had flaws in its leadership? What if the employee was not communicating effectively that he/she needed support? It may be another case where the brakes are mechanically sound, but human error continues to halt the line between intention and execution.