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  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2017

Fallibility at Work

Rethinking Excellence and Error in Organizations

Palgrave Macmillan


  • Provides a systematic account of what the phenomenon of fallibility amounts to, why it matters, why it turns out to be difficult to cope with, and finally how we may deal with it in constructive ways

  • Highlights the relational aspects of organizational behaviour, with theoretical input from the three disciplines of philosophy, psychology and pedagogy

  • Explores how the challenges posed by fallibility change when emphasis moves from heroic to distributed leadership, and from vertical to horizontal leadership

  • Includes supplementary material:

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (7 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xx
  2. Risky Play

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 1-20Open Access
  3. Failing Fast

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 21-38Open Access
  4. Moral Risk in a Nursing Home

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 39-58Open Access
  5. Coping with Fallibility in Aviation

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 59-78Open Access
  6. Fallibility and Trust in Healthcare

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 79-99Open Access
  7. Approaches to Help in Organizations

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 101-119Open Access
  8. Ethics of Fallibility

    • Øyvind Kvalnes
    Pages 121-145Open Access
  9. Back Matter

    Pages 147-160

About this book

This book is published open access under a CC BY 4.0 license. 

This book addresses how organizations can deal with human fallibility in order to create space for excellence at work. Some mistakes in work settings put lives at risk, while others create openings for innovative breakthroughs. In order to deal constructively with fallibility, an organization needs a communication climate where it is normal to voice opinions, admit mistakes, and ask for help in critical situations. The book builds on interviews with practitioners in healthcare, aviation, IT, public governance, and industry. It connects narratives from these fields with theories from organizational psychology and philosophy, as well as from positive organizational scholarship. In the final chapter, an overall ethics of fallibility at work is outlined. Fallibility at Work contributes to research in multiple academic disciplines, but also reaches out to practitioners who are interested in the connections between error and excellence in organizations.


  • organizational behaviour
  • business ethics
  • management
  • interaction
  • intervention
  • mediation
  • Open Access
  • workplace behaviour
  • workplace error
  • reliability


“This is an exciting, groundbreaking book. With an astonishing array of examples and a brilliant eye for the essential, Kvalnes takes the Socratic motto of knowing yourself to our everyday lives in the workplace. Applied philosophy at its best, the book will affect the way you do your work and live your life.” (Professor Esa Saarinen, Aalto University)

“This is a balanced, thought-provoking and very entertaining book on how individuals, groups and organizations can handle fallibility at work. I find it extremely important to address this topic in all kinds of organizations, particularly in military and other hierarchical organizations, where evasiveness can be a question of life or death. Building a healthy culture is a responsibility for all leaders. This book provides us with some important tools to succeed.” (Ingrid Margrethe Gjerde, Chief of Staff of the Norwegian Army)

“This book takes on the important organizational dilemma of fallibility. It contains stories that are particularly powerful in conveying the complexity of living out fallibility in institutional contexts.” (Jane Dutton, Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan)

“This book will motivate the reader to speak up about potentially unwanted events that others fail to see or choose to overlook. It gives an excellent account of a way of thinking that is often neglected in work settings. The reader can apply the knowledge from the book to make a positive difference and improve collaborative efforts in his or her organization.” (Torbjørn Atle Aanonsen, Quality Management and Project Quality Specialist, Aker Solutions)

Authors and Affiliations

  • BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway

    Øyvind Kvalnes

About the author

Øyvind Kvalnes is Associate Professor at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo. His most recent book is Moral Reasoning at Work: Rethinking Ethics in Organizations (Palgrave Pivot, 2015). His main research interests are in ethics, moral psychology, leadership, and excellence in organizations.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Fallibility at Work

  • Book Subtitle: Rethinking Excellence and Error in Organizations

  • Authors: Øyvind Kvalnes

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Business and Management, Business and Management (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-63317-6Published: 23 October 2017

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-319-87523-1Published: 24 August 2018

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-63318-3Published: 09 October 2017

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XX, 160

  • Topics: Knowledge Management, Business Ethics, Organization

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 31.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)