Stories of how a simple human error can cause disaster -- a downed airliner, a tanker on the rocks, the wrong limb amputated -- make a huge impression. Telling them can prevent recurrences, but the message isn't so effective when it comes from the top. "I think from a leadership standpoint what you need to do is to create first a mindset that these things are important," says Dave Hofmann, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of North Carolina.

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