Does it fail well?

When we buy, our minds are fixated on how well things work. Instead, we ought to spare a thought for how well things fail.

When we buy a car, the salesman tells us about its mileage, sleek interiors, its powerful engine and the ability of its software to receive upgrades over the internet – shiny things that we will stop noticing after a couple of months. What is more important is how the car is built for failure – the design of the seat belts, crash protection and how easy it is to change tires.

Builders ought to be mindful of how well their creations fail. While buying a house, the real-estate agent tells us how it is centrally located, spacious and well lit. Nevertheless, our house ought to have a strong foundation, and it ought to be built with quality materials – attributes that its buyers can easily overlook.

We are short-sighted buyers and this tendency doesn’t serve us well when we make long-term purchases. Therefore, we need standards and regulations to help us create a culture where things don’t merely work well, but also fail well.

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