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The context of error

June 9, 2008

My post of yesterday back referenced an attack on Sick Stigma which in turn prompted an excellent mini-case from John Schlesinger in the comments. I quote:

When I worked at IBM we were asked (in 1990) to 6Sigma our CICS development team. The gurus told us that the next release of CICS could only have 6 bugs (or APARs as we called them). This was ridiculous, but luckily a colleague ran a report and showed that IBM program products had extremely strong positive correlation of profitability with APAR rate. That is, the products with the most APARs were the most profitable. This is because great products, like CICS, get used for lots of things we didn't think of and for which we didn't test. Mediocre products only get used for what the tests cover. Bad products don't get used at all and so generate almost no bugs.

Now I think this makes a very important point. Innovation happens when people use things in unexpected ways, or come up against intractable problems. We learn from tolerated failure, without the world is sterile and dies. Systems that eliminate failure, eliminate innovation.

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