Most Dangerous 41/2 Acres in the World

by Dave Collins on April 14, 2014

Most Dangerous 41/2 Acres in the World

Stealth aircraft silhouetteThanks to John Wettstein from : for send this in. People who work on carriers spend much of their time on a flat deck that has been called “the most dangerous 41/2 acres in the world.” Here’s how on Navy veteran describes life on a carrier:

Some organizations require nearly error-free operations all the time because otherwise they are capable of experiencing catastrophes. One such organization is an aircraft carrier. which an informant in Rochlin. LaPorte. and Roberts’ (1987:78) study described as follows:

. .. imagine that it’s a busy day. and you shrink San Francisco Airport to only one short runway and one ramp and one gate. Make planes take off and land at the same time. at half the present time interval. rock the runway from side to side. and require that everyone who leaves in the morning returns that same day. Make sure the equipment is so close to the edge of the envelope that it’s fragile. Then turn off the radar to avoid detection. impose strict controls on radios. fuel the aircraft in place with their engines running. put an enemy in the air. and scatter live bombs and rockets around. Now wet the whole thing down with sea water and oil. and man it with 20-year-olds. half of whom have never seen an airplane close-up. Oh and by the way. try not to kill anyone.

Even though carriers represent “a million accidents waiting to happen” (Wilson. 1986: 21). almost none of them do. Here. we examine why not. The explanation we wish to explore is that organizations concerned with reliability enact aggregate mental processes that are more fully developed than those found in organizations concerned with efficiency. By fully developed mental processes. we mean that organizations preoccupied with reliability may spend more time and effort organizing for controlled information processing (Schneider and Schiffrin. 1977). mindful attention (Langer. 1989). and heedful action (Ryle. 1949). These intensified efforts enable people to understand more of the complexity they face, which then enables them to respond with fewer errors. Reliable systems are smart systems.

Source: Karl E. Weick and Karlene H. Roberts, “Collective Mind in Organizations: Heedful Interrelating on Flight Decks,” Administrative Science Quarterly 3 (1993): 357. DOWNLOAD IT HERE

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