Image for Does Failure breed Success?

Play now 45 mins

Does Failure breed Success?

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 14 April 2012

This week on the Forum: on the anniversary of one of the most spectacular failures in history – the sinking of the luxury cruise ship The Titanic in April 1912 – we take a look at failure and what we can learn from it.

Parag Khanna, a leading geo-strategist, explores the failure of diplomacy in our modern age and calls for more independent negotiators.

Turkish economist Daron Acemoglu argues that a nations' economic failure is not down to culture or geography, but due to economic institutions that are authoritarian and designed to benefit the elite.

And American engineer Henry Petroski explains why he believes failure to imagine the possibility of failure is the most common mistake engineers make and that this attitude can be traced to be the cause of many major disasters.

Illustration by Emily Kasriel: can we learn form the failure of nation states, diplomats and engineering?


4 items
  • Parag Khanna

    Parag Khanna

    Parag Khanna is an Indian-American author and a fellow at the London School of Economics IDEAS institute, a centre for diplomacy and strategy. He is a senior member of the European council on Foreign Relations, and has been geopolitical advisor to the United States Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He argues that because the world of the future will be borderless and fragmented, we need a new form of “mega-diplomacy” which veers away from global governance institutions like the United Nations towards diplomatic processes which engage both state and non-state actors, from motivated technocrats and influential executives to activists and churchgoers.
  • Daron Acemoglu

    Daron Acemoglu

    Daron Acemoglu is Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-author of Why Nations Fail. He believes it is not geography or culture that affect a nation’s economic fate but man-made institutions that determine whether a country is rich or poor. And that’s why, he believes, China’s success story may be short lived.
  • Henry Petroski

    Henry Petroski

    Henry Petroski is Professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University in North Carolina. He is also a prolific author and has written over a dozen books on failure analysis – with most recently, To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure. He argues that engineers should always design with the possibility of failure in mind, and be very aware of past failures. He believes when something fails or has failed it calls attention to important shortcomings and that if The Titanic hadn’t sunk, far more lives could have been lost in the future.

    Henry Petroski - Harvard University
  • Sixty Second Idea to Change the World

    In our Sixty Second Idea to improve the World, one of our listeners, Neil Sjoberg, suggests introducing a compulsory new subject to study at school called 'learning to lose', which would also include a failure exam that children would have to pass. The idea is that kids should be taught that failure is frequent and normal, because only by admitting this do we ever achieve success.

  • In Next Week’s Programme: Revolutionary ways to tackle crime.

    From one of the world’s leading criminologists and the best selling Swedish author of the Inspector Wallander novels, Henning Mankell.


Free downloads

  1. Image for Forum - A World of Ideas

    Forum - A World of Ideas

    The world's most remarkable minds tackle a big idea. Podcast weekly on Saturdays.

  2. Image for Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World

    Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World

    An imaginative, quirky solution to a challenge of our age. Podcast weekly on Saturdays.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss