D. Christopher Kayes: Organizational Resilience: How Learning Sustains Organizations in Crisis, Disaster, and Breakdowns. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 171 pp. $59.95, hardcover.
Kayes has been a long-time, articulate student of experiential learning (e.g., 2002) and of dramatic instances when such learning falls short (e.g., 2004). Those strengths are evident again in this volume. The argument is developed along two dimensions: the environment is either routine or novel, and the operational orientation is either performance or learning. Of special interest are those situations in which a performance orientation in a routine environment shifts abruptly or gradually toward a requirement for a learning orientation in a novel environment. These shifts are often incomplete because factors such as preoccupation with goals, unwarranted optimism, and rational decision making make experiential learning more difficult and reinforce a performance orientation.
The author argues that many models of organizational failure (e.g., Janis, 1972; Reason, 1990; Perrow, 1999) are inadequate because they ignore how failing masks breakdowns and recoveries of learning. Because learning is a ‘‘naturally occurring process,’’ disruptions of that ongoing process contribute to disasters and make them worse.
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