Come back sociotechnical systems theory, all is forgiven...

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Why, despite all the effort and expense, do engineering systems sometimes show an abject lack of resilience, with the smallest of human failures being the difference between normality and a calamitous disaster? If people made the kind of rational choices tacitly designed into our Civil Engineering endeavours, then a fair slice of humanity's grand challenges would probably disappear. Sociotechnical systems (STS) theory was an approach developed to address these matters. Several large firms embraced the principles to give rise to organisations that were highly adaptable, flexible, responsive, and above all resilient. What we have in STS theory is a powerful demonstration of how to harness the emergent edge-of-chaos properties of humans, jointly optimised with engineering, which could offer a radical new approach to resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalCivil Engineering and Environmental Systems
Issue number1-2
Early online date7 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • organisation design
  • Civil Engineering systems
  • sociotechnical systems


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