Learning from a Drastic Failure: The Case of the Airbus A380 Program
32 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2012 Last revised: 16 Mar 2014
Date Written: February 20, 2014
How do organizations learn from a drastic failure? We distinguish between ad-hoc and systematic reactions and discuss their effectiveness for dealing with two basic challenges: (1) identifying and solving the problems that caused the failure; and (2) changing the organization accordingly. We apply this conceptual perspective to illustrate the dynamics of learning from the drastic failure that occurred during the development of the Airbus A380 “superjumbo.” Our findings echo extant observations that efforts to redesign organizational behavior in an ad-hoc manner are often insufficient. Instead, the organizational system must provide a scaffolding that allows experiencing a critical event in a rich and systematic manner. When seen from a dynamic perspective, however, we find that even imperfect ad-hoc efforts may play a vital role. By enforcing changes, providing stability, and raising awareness, they can act as a helpful prelude to more systematic problem solving and change.
Keywords: Organizational learning, organizational change, problem solving, innovation, complex product systems, aircraft industry
JEL Classification: D22, L62, M10, O32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation