Are Failures the Pillars of Success?

  • Priyan DiasEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Applied Sciences and Technology book series (BRIEFSAPPLSCIENCES)


Karl Popper argued that the scientific method was cyclic in nature; and that the growth of scientific knowledge took place when we focused on the falsification of theories, as opposed to their verification. We demonstrate here the relevance of these ideas to engineering processes and approaches, which can be seen as cyclic problem solving. The notion of failure plays a vital role, both in the design process and in the wider growth of engineering knowledge. Examples are given of real world failures and their contribution to the growth of knowledge in various aspects of engineering. We also show how some of these concepts are embodied in genetic algorithms, used for both optimization and design; and in reflective practice loops that are advocated for organizational learning.


Problem solving Cyclic process Failure Genetic algorithm Reflective practice Design Learning 



Adapted from The Structural Engineer 85(2), 32–37, Engineering as cyclic problem solving—some insights from Karl Popper by W. P. S. Dias, 2007, published by the Institution of Structural Engineers, London.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of MoratuwaMoratuwaSri Lanka

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