Black Swans in Public Administration: Rare Organizational Failure with Drastic Consequences


Tue, 13/02/2018 (All day)
Black Swans in Public Administration


Mandel Building, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus


Prof. Wolfgang Seibel, The University of Konstanz
The project title “Black swans in public administration” refers to a famous metaphor used by the philosopher Karl R. Popper. The idea that all swans are white is instantly neutralized (or "falsified", as Popper puts it) by the occurrence of a black swan. It is precisely the extreme rareness of the black swan that triggers research into its specific genetics. According to Wolfgang Seibel, the same logic applies to rare and extreme cases of organizational failure in public administration that violate the physical integrity of human beings. These are extremely rare deviations from regular administrative procedures. However, for ethical reasons alone – including prevention – they cannot be treated as negligible statistical outliers. As Seibel emphasizes, any research into this phenomenon has to focus on the genetics or general causal mechanisms that underlie disastrous outcomes.