G.B. Reschenthaler & Fred Thompson
When the roots of fearful failure implicate social or political predators, then institutional design takes on an additional of objective: thinking through the development of “predatory confounding systems”. This of course is an important element in considering emergency systems – getting ready to do what one comes to anticipate damage to known processes. Engaging in preparing to embrace unpredictable, predator prompter surprises is likely to be quite different – and difficult to explain to most overseers currently “on watch.”
Finally, and I think most puzzling, is the need to examine the design implications of preparing confidently to embrace rude surprises for a number of management and political generations. Crises that unexpectedly arise from natural and unintentional human sources will occur without end – the institutional demands stretching far into the future. It is likely that their magnitude will grow and recovering from them increasingly costly in both economic and social terms. At the same time, it is imaginable that crises of predatory origin will also continue for many political generations and grow in potentially anxiety arousing consequences. From an administrative and policy view, this means short- term responses while important need to re-enforce the development of long term, highly reliable capacity that exhibit institutional constancy – signaling to the public that these institutions will be able repeatedly to show they can respond to rude surprises, adapt to novel situations, limit damage, and effectively draw lessons from the fearfully unexpected in ways that improve the emergency response capabilities of the next generation. This is perhaps the most difficult of the many, nearly insurmountable challenges embedded in the intention to improve “crisis management” for it calls persistently to maintain appropriate levels of social watchfulness, and engender enough social anxiety to guard continually – generation after generation - against extreme events.15
An After Word with Skepticism
There is a hopeful cast to dialogues of this kind. An obvious need is framed, energized discussions go forward - members of the choir engage each other. This is a good thing, we charge our
batteries for the long pull ahead. At the same time, some attention could be fruitfully devoted to a
counter view – explicating the present institutional conditions that load the dice against much more than
rhetorical gain in deepening our understanding of the institutional elements facilitating optimal responses of rude surprises even for one generation.
Can any of this come to pass without substantial changes in the way social and political leadership instructs the public and economic sectors? To what degree is another crucial and dangerous duty of crisis managers to take up the tasks for also legitimating the institutions that would be called on to engage in crisis response?
15 Pointed out by Todd M. La Porte, private communication.