Explainers

How Chernobyl Explains Failure: Organizational Accidents and Resilient Cultures

An in-depth look at the factors that lead to failure, and how individuals can work together to build safer, more resilient cultures.

When something goes wrong in your organization, who gets blamed—and how does the team fix it? 36 years ago this week, the Chernobyl reactor exploded, threatening Europe, and the world at large, with radioactive fall-out. Scientists, politicians, and thousands of workers made heroic efforts at great personal risk to contain the damage and prevent another disaster, despite the sclerotic, paranoid Soviet culture. But how? 

Drawing from HBO’s mini-series “Chernobyl” and James Reason’s classic, “Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents,” we explore the factors that contribute to organizational failure (and why people tend to focus on the wrong ones), as well as how to design systems and cultures that are safer and more resilient. Most importantly, we examine how individuals working together can implement change despite seemingly impossible circumstances.

We’re telling more stories that prove that when people work together, change is, in fact, possible. If you know of a great story, or have feedback on this video, we’d love to connect. Please note, this video may not be available in all regions.

Published April 26, 2022

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