Qualitative analysis of the events leading to the deaths of eight climbers on Mt Everest in 1996 illustrates the breakdown of learning in teams. The analysis contributes to research on the role of teams in organizational disasters by considering team learning and develop- ment as the basis for success in complex and changing organizations. Multiple qualitative methods reveal three precursors associated with the breakdown of learning in teams: narrowly defined purpose, directive leadership and failure to sense an ill-defined problem. Findings have implications for normal disasters and sense-making, performance in short-term project teams, and organizational learning.
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