Browse Definitions :
Definition

broken window theory

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Broken window theory is the concept that each problem that goes unattended in a given environment affects people's attitude toward that environment and leads to more problems.

As a corollary to the theory, when an environment is well-tended and problems dealt with as they arise, that also affects attitudes and leads to continued good management and maintenance. The theory first appeared in a 1982 article ("Broken Windows") in The Atlantic by two social scientists, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Here's how the authors explain the phenomenon:

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.

In a business context, broken window theory is applied not only to elements of the physical workplace environment but any kind of outstanding issue that has not been promptly dealt with. Problems like absenteeism, information silos, poor human resource management, overwork, burnout, oppressive or disconnected corporate cultures and a lack of employee engagement can each be considered analagous to a  broken window.

This was last updated in September 2015

Continue Reading About broken window theory

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • regulatory compliance

    Regulatory compliance is an organization's adherence to laws, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business...

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

  • smart contract

    A smart contract, also known as a cryptocontract, is a computer program that directly controls the transfer of digital currencies...

SearchSecurity

  • RSA algorithm (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman)

    The RSA algorithm is the basis of a cryptosystem -- a suite of cryptographic algorithms that are used for specific security ...

  • remote access

    Remote access is the ability to access a computer or a network remotely through a network connection.

  • IP Spoofing

    IP spoofing is the crafting of Internet Protocol (IP) packets with a source IP address that has been modified to impersonate ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • virtual disaster recovery

    Virtual disaster recovery is a type of DR that typically involves replication and allows a user to fail over to virtualized ...

  • tabletop exercise (TTX)

    A tabletop exercise (TTX) is a disaster preparedness activity that takes participants through the process of dealing with a ...

  • risk mitigation

    Risk mitigation is a strategy to prepare for and lessen the effects of threats faced by a data center.

SearchStorage

  • disk array

    A disk array, also called a storage array, is a data storage system used for block-based storage, file-based storage or object ...

  • enterprise storage

    Enterprise storage is a centralized repository for business information that provides common data management, protection and data...

  • optical storage

    Optical storage is any storage type in which data is written and read with a laser. Typically, data is written to optical media, ...

Close