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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking take on how complexity causes failure in all kinds of modern systems - from social media to air travel - this practical and entertaining book reveals how we can prevent meltdowns in business and life.

"Endlessly fascinating, brimming with insight, and more fun than a book about failure has any right to be, Meltdown will transform how you think about the systems that govern our lives. This is a wonderful book." (Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better)

A crash on the Washington, DC, metro system. An accidental overdose in a state-of-the-art hospital. An overcooked holiday meal. At first glance, these disasters seem to have little in common. But surprising new research shows that all these events - and the myriad failures that dominate headlines every day - share similar causes. By understanding what lies behind these failures, we can design better systems, make our teams more productive, and transform how we make decisions at work and at home.

Weaving together cutting-edge social science with riveting stories that take us from the front lines of the Volkswagen scandal to backstage at the Oscars, and from deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico to the top of Mount Everest, Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik explain how the increasing complexity of our systems creates conditions ripe for failure and why our brains and teams can't keep up. They highlight the paradox of progress: Though modern systems have given us new capabilities, they've become vulnerable to surprising meltdowns - and even to corruption and misconduct.

But Meltdown isn't just about failure; it's about solutions - whether you're managing a team or the chaos of your family's morning routine. It reveals why ugly designs make us safer, how a five-minute exercise can prevent billion-dollar catastrophes, why teams with fewer experts are better at managing risk, and why diversity is one of our best safeguards against failure. The result is an eye-opening, empowering, and entirely original book - one that will change the way you see our complex world and your own place in it.

©2018 Chris Clearfield, András Tilcsik (P)2018 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
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Great read!

This book provides core reasons surrounding both common and catastrophic system failures, some of the concepts being ones we seem to forget but make sense. I would recommend this book to everyone.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good but lacking

Where does Meltdown rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I would put this book in the 85-90 percent zone. I enjoyed the book but I believe the narrator could have been a better fit. This narrator sounds more suited to a fiction book and this was a major issue in the beginning.

Pause to research. There were a number of times I had to pause the narrative so I could do more research online, and there were a number of those searches that were made more difficult because I didn’t know how to spell the name of the person, place or company. This is where a print book would have been better.

My take from this book is that we often look for solutions which complicate the system we are working on. Yet looking to prevent meltdowns means looking to reduce system complexities.

I can see meltdowns in our tax law, healthcare law (tax law), insurance and local government operations. Sometimes it is so difficult to get an answer about why our government/citizen system must operate in the current fashion and the answer is really “I don’t know.”

All businesses need this book. I’m sending a link to my bankers about the warnings the bank sends which don’t need any action. They cry wolf everyday and this book has many examples of why constant alerts don’t work.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John Koch
  • Richfield, MN United States
  • 07-16-18

very good book on avoiding system failure and

very good book on avoiding system failure and being proactive if you have coupled systems.

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Life isn't all burritos and strippers

A good read for those people who are interested in making better decisions, systems or futures.

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You work within complex systems: Read this book

Overcoming system failure in an increasingly complex world is a daunting topic. Don't hesitate to read this book that lays out how every one of us can contribute to building simple and successful systems to stay ahead of complex system meltdown. Favorite topics within this book include Pre-mortems and how Charles Parrow's Technology Classification Matix can help us.

Don't skip the epilogue. There is an excellent reference to how Yeats' The Second Comming is used inaccurately to describe why world news seems to be getting progressively worse.

One of the most useful and strangely comforting books I have read in the past few years.

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  • s. z.
  • new york city, new york USA
  • 04-07-18

Translates complex concepts into useful information.

An important book. Ours is it time when system failure can lead to a disaster capable of destroying the planet. We need to understand how things can go so badly wrong in order to have a better chance of avoiding calamities. That said, many of the examples are of the absolutely every day variety, including how do avoid a Thanksgiving feast going off the rails. A great read and an excellent narrator.

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Very useful!

Awesome book. Very engaging anecdotes combined with real academic research. Presents an important problem and concrete solutions.