MELTDOWN: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It

Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik win $30,000 prize at the 2019 National Business Book Award for Meltdown:  Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It, published by Allen Lane.

Left to right: Jury Chair, Peter Mansbridge, Chris Clearfield, András Tilcsik , and Gino Scapillati, Bennett Jones. Photo by David Pike.

TORONTO, June 5th, 2019 – Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik have won the National Business Book Award for their book, MeltdownWhy Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It, published by Allen Lane.  The announcement was made at the Award Ceremony today in Toronto, hosted by co-sponsors BMO Financial Group and Bennett Jones. 

Clearfield and Tilcsik present an innovative and engaging account of how seemingly unconnected disasters in the nuclear, medical and transportation sectors share common causes.  Applying leading-edge social sciences research with riveting real-life stories, they explain how the increasing complexity of our systems create conditions ripe for failure and how our brains can’t keep up.  They also provide numerous solutions for how to deal with increasing complexity in today’s fast-paced world to prevent ‘meltdowns’.

Chris Clearfield started his career as a derivatives trader who worked in New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. At the same time he trained as a pilot and developed a personal interest in avoiding catastrophic mistakes.  He is the founder of System Logic, a research and consulting firm that helps organizations manage the risk of catastrophic failure.  He has written about complexity and failure for Forbes and the Harvard Kennedy School Review.

András Tilcsik holds the Canada Research Chair in Strategy, Organizations, and Society at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He has been recognized as one of the world’s top forty business professors under forty and as one of thirty management thinkers most likely to shape the future of organizations.  András is a Fellow of the Michael Lee-Chin Institute for Corporate Citizenship and is studying corporate practices that reduce the risk and impact of environmental disasters. 

“The National Business Book Award continues to draw us to fresh thinking and thought-provoking stories that stimulate new conversations among corporate leaders and directors across Canada,” says Gino Scapillati, Vice Chair, Strategy and Innovation, Bennett Jones. “Our lawyers and business advisors share the business community’s intellectual curiosity for new ways of thinking that inspire and enlighten.”

“BMO is proud to continue our long-time support for Canada’s business writers,” says Mona Malone, Head of People and Culture and Chief Human Resources Officer, BMO Financial Group. “The National Business Book Award is a very important program recognizing our country’s finest business writers, many of whom have a global perspective.  This award highlights exceptional business analysis and writing delivering enormous value to Canada’s business community.”

The prestigious and independent jury evaluates eligible nominations based on five key criteria including originality, relevance, excellence of writing, thoroughness of research and depth of analysis.

The National Business Book Award jury is chaired by Peter Mansbridge, former Chief Correspondent, CBC Television News. Other jurors include: Deirdre McMurdy, Adjudicator; David Denison, corporate director; The Honourable Pamela Wallin and Leonard Waverman, Dean of the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University.

The finalists for this year’s National Business Book Award include:

  • Howard Green, Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-time CEO Hunter Harrison, published by Page Two.
  • Phil Lind with Robert Brehl, Right Hand Man: How Phil Lind Guided the Genius of Ted Rogers, Canada’s Foremost Entrepreneur, published by Barlow Books.
  • David Shoalts, Hockey Fight In Canada: The Big Media Faceoff over the NHL, published by Douglas & McIntyre.

The National Business Book Award is an annual celebration of Canadian authors of outstanding non-fiction business-related books. It continues to gain attention from not only the Canadian business world, but also publishers, authors, journalists, academics, economists and business leaders internationally.

In addition to co-sponsors BMO Financial Group and Bennett Jones, the supporting partners for the National Business Book Award are the DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University and Toronto Region Board of Trade. 

About BMO Financial Group

Serving customers for 200 years and counting, BMO is a highly diversified financial services provider – the 8th largest bank, by assets, in North America. With total assets of $807 billion as of January 31, 2019, and a team of diverse and highly engaged employees, BMO provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, BMO Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.

About Bennett Jones

Bennett Jones is one of Canada’s premier business law firms and home to 400 lawyers and business advisors.  With deep experience in complex transactions and litigation matters, the firm is well equipped to advise foreign businesses and investors with Canadian ventures, and connect Canadian businesses and investors with opportunities around the world.  Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at

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Follow us on Twitter @NBBAward and visit for more information.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Mary Ann Freedman

Freedman & Associates Inc. for the National Business Book Award

M: 416-523 8681