“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 an associate professor at ESMT Berlin. Jan’s research and teaching focus on leadership. He is particularly interested in understanding how teams and organizations deal with errors. Apart from writing journal articles, he published the book Confronting Mistakes – Lessons from the Aviation Industry when Dealing with Error (Palgrave Macmillan) in 2013 and edited How Could This Happen – Managing Errors in Organizations (Palgrave Macmillan) in 2018. His research has received media coverage in outlets such as the BBC, The Economist, Financial Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The Guardian, Forbes, Handelsblatt, Harvard Business Manager, The Irish Times, Manager Magazin, Spiegel Online, and The Sunday Times.

Jan is the program director for ESMT’s Leadership under Pressure executive program. He also teaches specific courses on error management at Cass Business School, IDC Herzliya, Saint Paul Business School, and Singapore Management University.

His executive education portfolio includes programs for Allianz, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, DZ BANK, EnBW, ERSTE Group, the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the German Federal Armed Forces, IBM, Lufthansa, the Moscow Stock Exchange, Pius Hospital, and the Vienna Insurance Group, among others.

Jan is the founder of ESMT’s biennial Error Management Conference, which is now conducted in cooperation with the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. In addition to his academic work, he also supports companies as a consultant.

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)