“To explore the various facets influencing an organization’s error management, I have focused my research on the error behavior of individuals, teams, and organizational cultures.”

Jan U. Hagen

Enhancing our understanding of
errors and their management

Errors or mistakes are nothing we welcome. In fact, we probably all remember mistakes we would rather forget and shudder when recalling the embarrassment they caused us. However, if we do not relegate our mistakes to the most hidden corners of our brains, we can learn from them.

For organizations, errors and their emotional charge are an ongoing concern. Both cause people to lie about their mistakes, fiercely deny them, and sweep them under the carpet – all actions that prevent organizational learning.

It is a behavior that is oftentimes so engrained into a culture that it is considered normal. It is not normal, not if we want to increase an organization’s knowledge.

Dec 03, 2013
Interview with Della Bradshaw from the Financial Times


Jan Hagen is a professor at ESMT and joined ESMT's faculty in 2005. Jan’s interest in research is to understand how organizations deal with human errors as well as automation errors, how psychological safety can be established in teams, and how managerial practice can support a culture of learning in organizations. Apart from academic articles and books he published two books that focus on managing errors in organizations: Confronting Mistakes – Lessons from the Aviation Industry when Dealing with Error (Palgrave Macmillan) and How Could This Happen – Managing Errors in Organizations (Palgrave Macmillan).

His research has received media coverage in outlets like the BBC, The Economist, Financial Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The Guardian, Forbes, Handelsblatt, Harvard Business Review, Manager Magazin, Spiegel Online, Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Sunday Times, as well as TV broadcasters like ARD and 3sat.

Jan’s personal interest is in interacting with organizations to transfer academic knowledge to management. This particularly applies to his research with high-reliability organizations like the airlines and the military, which has implications for business leaders wanting to create agile, learning organizations. He is the program director for ESMT’s Leadership under Pressure executive program and he taught specifically on error and crisis management in courses at Cass Business School, IDC Herzliya, Imperial College London, Saint Paul Business School, Seoul National University, Singapore Management University, and Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management.

His executive education teaching portfolio includes programs for, among others, Allianz, Belgian Air Force, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, EnBW, E.ON, ERSTE Bank Group, European Investment Bank, European Parliament, German Federal Armed Forces, IBM, Lufthansa, Munich Re and Vienna Insurance Group. If time allows he also supports companies as a consultant with regard to error management.


Book, Confronting mistakes

Confronting mistakes:
Lessons from the aviation industry
when dealing with errors

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Jan U. Hagen (2013)

Book, How could this happen?

How could this happen?
Managing errors in organizations

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Jan U. Hagen (2018)