Systems Are Complicated. That’s Why They Fail. Chris Clearfield’s Meltdown Exposes the Flaws of Complexity and How to Avoid Them
The Washington, D.C. Metro System; a state-of-the-art hospital; an elaborate meal: the most complex systems are vulnerable to collapse, tiny errors toppling organizations like dominos. But it’s avoidable. Chris Clearfield, behavioral economics expert and co-author of Meltdown (2018) explains how smart companies can protect themselves.
A former derivatives trader on Wall Street, Chris Clearfield watched the 2007-2008 financial crisis in real time—a cascading series of market crashes. Simultaneously, he began training as a commercial pilot, where he further honed his interest in deflecting small, but catastrophic, mistakes. In Meltdown, the much-anticipated new book written with his colleague András Tilcsik, Clearfield merges social science with economics, risk management, and remarkable stories that both educate and entertain.
In his talks, Clearfield weaves together riveting examples of disasters both met and avoided. It has to do with what he calls the paradox of progress: as our systems grow more sophisticated, they also become more vulnerable to machine flaws and human error, misconduct, and corruption. His talks aren’t about failure, though. Rather, they’re about facing the possibility of failure within our excitingly interdependent world. Laying out solutions (as well as red flags), Clearfields compelling talks provide takeaways for anyone with a company, team, or the most minutely complex system of all—a family.
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