Episode 177: Meltdown: Interview with Chris Clearfield - My Quest for the Best

Episode 177: Meltdown: Interview with Chris Clearfield

Chris Clearfield

Founder of System Logic, Co-Author of Meltdown

Bill Ringle and Chris Clearfield discuss the remarkable simplicity that can avert catastrophic business disasters, applicable of organizations of all sizes.
Key points that you’ll learn from this interview:
  • Complexity is unavoidable, so here is how to think about it in order to manage it successfully.
  • Why it is important to consider how many things have to go RIGHT for your project to succeed.
  • The importance of developing a test and feedback cadence in your work.
  • The myth of the open door policy.
  • How a Toronto hospital cut down unnecessary (and costly) x-rays by changing their protocol

Interview Insights

Click to Read the Show Notes

2:41 Chris tells about the time when a physics professor took the time to explain a difficult subject to him, and eventually took him under his wing, and the impact that had on his young mind.

3:56 “When you’re doing science, you don’t always have the answer, and sometimes you get an answer that you don’t expect…the world is not a straightforward and linear place.”

4:46 Chris describes his role working for James Street, and using computers to recognize how much things were worth.

6:58 “Once I understood the trading and I understood the infrastructure and the regulatory stuff and the way everything came together, I switched to a role where I was looking at these bigger questions of risk.”

9:00 How reading about aviation infrastructure, or lack thereof, in Asia allowed Chris to see the complexity inherent in the system.

9:24 “Why do some organizations do a great job of making decisions in really complex environments and managing risk and others do not?”

9:58 “Aviation has figured out how to manage some of these risks prospectively.”

11:00 The genesis of starting his own firm.

11:57 Chris recounts his interest in the BP oil spill. “I was really interested in understanding what happened, and as I dug in more and more…I became fascinated with how the accident happened.”

12:37 “The greatest environmentalist in the last 50 years, might’ve been someone at BP who said, ‘No, this isn’t the right way to do this.’”

13:53 The reason to buy down risk. “There are things happening in the world that [people] don’t quite understand that will affect their business.”

15:18 The importance of preparing for the “knock-on” consequences.

15:58 “It’s not about figuring out what hatch to close, it’s about developing a different perspective and saying: ‘Oh, these things might interact in a way that causes a big problem.’”

16:24 “We wear a seatbelt not because we know the exact kind of accident we’re going to get into, we wear a seatbelt because we want to protect ourselves regardless of the accident.”

17:34 On the post-disaster case study. “I think what that training did was give them the confidence they needed so that they were able to, the next time these things came up, not only deal with it in real time but see the precursors.”

19:12 “In this day and age, there is so much more interconnectedness and complexity.”

20:02 How the Meltdown Quiz can you help you think better about your existing systems. “How many things in this project have to go right for this project to succeed?”

22:28 “We need to add structure to our thinking…we do a lot of work with leaders to help them develop a process to add that structure to their thinking.”

23:05 How to avoid falling into the trap of making the situation more complex than it needs to be.”

26:10 What it means to, as Cal Newport named it, “do deep work.”

27:16 How Chris tracks his deep work hours.

27:53 “I realized that my morning routine with my five-year-old son looked a lot like a crisis.”

30:44 Why you should start your meetings a little bit differently.”

33:18 How doctors in Toronto figured out that asking patients a handful of questions could quickly determine whether or not the patient needed an x-ray.

35:00 “An open door policy is not enough.”

37:25 Chris’s three big takeaways.

Expert Bio

Before starting System Logic, Chris worked as a derivatives trader at a prestigious proprietary trading firm focused on understanding and hedging risk. After years as a trader in New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, his role matured from trading to analyzing the financial and regulatory risks inherent in the business of technologically complex high-speed trading to devising policies that mitigate those risks.

He co-authoredMeltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It with András Tilcsik, a Toronto business-school professor, to tell us how and why.

He graduated from Harvard College, where he studied physics and biology and is a licensed commercial pilot. He now lives and works in Seattle, WA with his family.

For more information, visit the Rethink Risk website.

Contact Info for Chris Clearfield

Web address: https://www.rethinkrisk.net/

Travels from: Seattle, WA

Phone: 646-543-4250

Contact:

LinkedIn 

Resources Mentioned by Chris Clearfield:

Meltdown Deep Work

Take the Meltdown Quiz! 

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