Explore BrainMass

Technological Disasters

What do you consider the most important lessons learned from technological disasters?

How are they related to some of the more common risks threatening E-commerce projects? Do these lessons help you in dealing better with the risks with personal business endeavors? What are the final items you've selected to include?

Solution Preview

Please see response attached, which is also presented below. I hope this helps and take care.


1. What do you consider the most important lessons learned from technological disasters?

This question is asking for your personal opinion. Since there are many technological disasters to consider and we all have our own perspective on what the most important lessons learned from technological disasters are, to help you decide which lessons you see being the most important, let's look at what others have to say.

For example, Scigloano (2002) asks this: What do a 17th-century Swedish warship; an opulent Chicago theater; and a Kansas City hotel have in common? All met catastrophic ends; and they have important lessons to teach today's innovators. (1) In fact, according to Scigliano (n.d.), in all endeavors, but especially in technology, failures-even ghastly, gruesome, cataclysmic ones-can sometimes makes better teachers than spectacular successes. He offers 10 examples (presented below), drawn from a span of 373 years, that show that though technologies change, many of the factors that make them go spectacularly wrong are surprisingly consistent: impatient clients who won't hear "no"; shady or lazy designers who cut corners; excess confidence in glamorous new technologies; and, of course, good old-fashioned hubris. In assembling this list of exemplary technological disasters, Scigliano and colleagues omitted the most familiar-those whose names have entered into the language, like Bhopal, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Titanic and Challenger-in favor of some with fresher tales to tell and lessons to impart. These events vary widely as to when, where, how and why they happened. But they all show how trusted technologies can suddenly go wrong, and how flaws that seem trivial or, in retrospect, painfully obvious can have devastating consequences. (1)

As you read the following disasters out forth by Scigliano (2002) (excerpts, so please reference accordingly), think about the valuable lessons that we can take from each disaster (perhaps jot them down for later reference) (1).

1. The Vasa sinking

The Swedish flagship Vasa's first and final sailing in August 1628 left fine fodder for future management consultants-an all-purpose cautionary tale of an overbearing but technically clueless boss pushing through his pet project. King Gustavus II Adolphus, striving to make Sweden a superpower, had wanted four new warships built fast. Workmen were already laying the Vasa's keel when the king ordered its length extended. His seasoned master shipwright, fearing to challenge the famously hot-tempered king, went ahead. The shipwright then took ill, directed the project as best he could from his sickbed and died before it was finished. His inexperienced assistant then took over, and the king ordered a second gun deck, possibly spurred by false reports that rival Denmark was building a ship with double gun decks. The result was the most lavishly appointed and heavily armed warship of its day, but one too long and too tall for its beam and ballast-a matchless array of features on an unstable platform. When the standard stability test of the day-30 sailors running from side to side trying to rock the boat-tilted the Vasa perilously, the test was canceled and the ship readied for launch. None of Gustavus's officials dared bear the bad news to the absent king, who was by then off warring in Poland and impatiently awaiting his new superweapon. Minutes after her grand launching, with all Stockholm watching, the Vasa heeled, listed and sank, killing about 50.

2. The Hyatt Regency walkway collapse

When three "floating walkways" crashed to the floor of Kansas City, MO's swank new Hyatt Regency on July 17, 1981, speculation first fixed on the patrons who'd been dancing on them: perhaps their high-stepping had set off a harmonic wave that made the sky bridges buckle and crumble.
The truth proved more prosaic. The hotel's engineers had originally designed two of the three walkways to hang on common, vertical metal rods. But the metal fabricator took a fatal shortcut, substituting shorter rods hanging from one level to the next. The second-floor walkway thus hung from the fourth-floor, doubling the weight on its connectors. The fabricator claimed to have requested approval for this change; the engineers insisted they weren't asked, though they had signed off on final drawings that included it. The designers had also asked to be on site during construction, when they might have spotted the change, but were rebuffed by an owner determined to avoid additional expense. When enough patrons filled the walkways, the connections gave way. Thanks to miscommunication and corner-cutting, 114 perished in the deadliest structural failure in U.S. history.

3. The Iroquois Theater blaze

What the Titanic's sinking represented at sea, the burning of Chicago's Iroquois Theater marked on land: a supposedly indestructible, up-to-the-minute design-in this case, a theater advertised as "absolutely fireproof"-destroyed with an enormous loss of life. The Iroquois's ...

Solution Summary

This solution describes the most important lessons learned from ten reported technological disasters, and then discusses whether or not they are related to some of the more common risks threatening E-commerce projects. Implications for personal business endeavors are also explored. Supplemented with one article expanding on topic of technological disasters.