A high consequence industry is an industry in which human life or quality of life is at stake.
Examples include aviation, health care, nuclear power, military, etc. In each of these industries, the cost of failure is impeccably high. In some ways it is immeasurable; it is impossible to quantify loss of life or quality of life in terms of dollars and cents.
Learning from Aviation
One thing that high consequence industries have in common is an elevated sense of public accountability. When aviation was a younger field, frequent mistakes led to frequent high consequence accidents. Over time, public outcry prompted positive changes within the field of aviation.
These changes led to high standards of safety that were definable and quantifiable. Since then, other high consequence industries, such as health care, have looked for a method of translating the procedures used in aviation’s success toward their own industry.
In medicine, public accountability most often takes the form of litigation. Individuals seek personal reparations for harm done against them. The negative side effect of this process is that there is less collective accountability within a health care system to adjust any system processes that might contribute to individual errors.
This does not mean that health care systems are unaware of error rates, or unaware of the responsibility they have to prevent accidents; it simply means that in a complex and hectic system, the easiest way to address these issues is to punish individuals for individual mistakes. The problem with this method is that if deeper, system-wide problems exist, nothing has been done to address them.
This is where the current interest Jump has in high consequence industries comes in. We seek to address system failures in health care by understanding similarities across high consequence industries. We strive to achieve this goal through our research by identifying and utilizing cross-industry similarities while accounting for cross-industry differences.
Similarities between high consequence industries are the foundation for building an effective risk-management system; by identifying similarities, success in one industry can provide strategies for building success in another.
This was the principle we had in mind when we brought together leaders of various high consequence professions in October for the first of an ongoing series of conferences on this topic to be held at Jump over the upcoming months and years.
The goal of our initial conference was to begin an inter-professional discussion about common issues in high consequence industries that could be continued in future conferences. It was about setting the stage for ongoing collaboration between specific high consequence organizations for the purpose of solving fidelity problems common to organizations functioning under a high degree of risk.
You can read more about specific takeaways from our initial HCI conference here.