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The Organizational and Interorganizational Development of Disasters

Barry A. Turner
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 21, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 378-397
DOI: 10.2307/2391850
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2391850
Page Count: 20
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The Organizational and Interorganizational Development of Disasters
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Abstract

Public inquiries into behavior connected with three major disasters are examined and classified to study the conditions under which large-scale intelligence failures develop. Common causal features are rigidities in institutional beliefs, distracting decoy phenomena, neglect of outside complaints, multiple information-handling difficulties, exacerbation of the hazards by strangers, failure to comply with regulations, and a tendency to minimize emergent danger. Such features form part of the incubation stage in a sequence of disaster development, accumulating unnoticed until a precipitating event leads to the onset of the disaster and a degree of cultural collapse. Recommendations following public inquiries are seen as part of a process of cultural readjustment after a disaster, allowing the ill-structured problem which led to the failure to be absorbed into the culture in a well-structured form. The sequence model of intelligence failure presented and the discussion of cases are intended to offer a paradigm for discussion of less tragic, but equally important organizational and interorganizational failures of foresight.

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