Errors, error taxonomies, error prevention, and error management: Laying the groundwork for discussing errors in organizations

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Every organization is confronted with errors; these errors can result in either positive (e.g., learning, innovation) or negative (e.g., loss of time, poor-quality products) consequences. On the positive side, errors can lay the foundation for outcomes such as innovation and learning (e.g., Sitkin, 1992). For example, both Edmondson (1996) and van Dyck, Frese, Baer, and Sonnentag (2005) found that a positive and constructive approach to errors is associated with organizational outcomes such as learning and performance. With regard to the negative aspects of errors, the majority of the attention within the organizational sciences has focused on the investigation of highly salient and visible organizational failures (e.g., Challenger, Columbia, Chernobyl; Perrow, 1984; Reason, 1987; Starbuck & Farjoun, 2005; Starbuck & Milliken, 1988a; Vaughan, 1996). These investigations have taught us a great deal about how many seemingly independent decisions, actions, and organizational conditions can become interconnected and create extreme failure. These extreme examples, however, do not really capture the lion’s share of errors occurring within organizations. Individuals working in organizations make errors every day and every hour and (sometimes) make multiple errors in the span of a minute. Researchers, for example, have estimated that for some computer tasks, up to 50% of work time is spent on error recovery (Hanson, Kraut, & Farber, 1984; Kraut, Hanson, & Farber, 1983; Shneiderman, 1987), and Brodbeck, Zapf, Prümper, and Frese (1993) found that 10% of computer work time is spent handling and recovering from errors. Other computer-based research suggested that individuals average 18 unnecessary cursor movements per hour (Floyd & Pyun, 1987).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationErrors in Organizations
EditorsDavid A. Hofmann, Michael Frese
Number of pages43
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group (GB)
Publication date21.07.2011
ISBN (Print)978-0-8058-6291-1
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-203-81782-7
Publication statusPublished - 21.07.2011