Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Failure Reading List

(Updated 3rd October 2008)

Primarily failure from a military and psychological perspective. What happens psychologically when someone fails? How does someone who is defeated rise up again? To what extent in combat is failure attributed to the 'loser' and their psychological state? Taxonomies of Failure.

Books Read

The Logic of Failure: Recognizing And Avoiding Error In Complex Situations by Dietrich Dorner

To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski (Great book. Mostly from a structural engineering perspective. Best chapter is Chapter 16: Connoisseurs of Chaos, as it lists a couple of different engineering taxonomies of failure).

Overconfidence and War: The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusions by Dominic Johnson (Overconfidence and optimism from an evolutionary psychology perspective and how they have a causal relation to starting, and losing, wars. There are some fascinating insights in this book).

The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery by Wolfgang Schivelbusch (Picked this up yesterday. Found it via Mencius Moldbug's blog. This book asks the question what sometimes happens to the losers in war? Answer: If they aren't completely annihilated, which they often arn't, they come back with a much stronger will and a sense of revenge. There are three cases studies, probably not enough for me. Quite interesting, but I'm somewhat skeptical of the concept).

Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall by Peter Turchin (Found this on GNXP. Good companion book to Wolfgang's book above. It is written by a mathematical ecologist. One of the more interesting premises is that within war-torn areas new -- and much more cunning -- groups are formed and then rise to power. Heavy on the math in parts, but see Turchin's other book below for a more historical version).

Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War by Eliot Gohen and John Gooch (Good book that analyses military failures from three perspectives: (1) Failure to Learn (2) Failure to Anticipate (3) Failure to Adapt).

To Read

War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires by Peter Turchin (Turchin's companion book. Much larger and historical. Will have to read this).

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul (Found this in the footnotes of Taleb's 'The Black Swan'. Apparently has a chapter on the psychology of losing).

Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics by Paul Ormerod

Mistakes Worth Making: How to Turn Sports Errors into Athletic Excellence by Susan Halden-Brown

Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat by Robin D. S. Higham

Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Mistakes at Work
by Julius A Roth

Flying in Adverse Conditions by R. Randall Padfield

Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen by Mark Buchanan

Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics by Dominic Johnson and Dominic Tierney (Not so much about failure, but the perception of failure. Sounds interesting, perhaps a 4GW tie in of manipulating perceptions to appear weak ...)

Related booklists

Errors, Psychological Biases, War, Critical Reasoning and Informal Logic, Hubris and Arrogance, Extinctions, Crisis Management, Disasters