What I like about aviation is the openness of everyone involved. I can’t imagine another industry where professionals so openly demonstrate and talk about when they messed up. Making mistakes is a prerequisite for learning.

It keeps me humble. It takes a lot of guts to not just talk about your “learning moments” but actually do something with it.

The moment you stop learning in aviation is the moment you stop breathing. There are two ways to learn: studying and erring.

As a pilot you experience a flight three times. First is the preparation, the flight itself and the debriefing … if only with yourself. I talked to Frank Versteegh a while ago and asked him how it went after the RedBull Airraces. He said there were 2 briefings … First with the press and 1 behind closed doors. And when the doors are closed everyone is equal and all problems are discussed.

You are the strictest executioner. You know what happened.

Unfortunately, most managers are not (yet) able to think or work other than linearly. Certainly in corporate companies, the focus on achieving the goals through spreadsheet management is business as usual.

Coorperate managers mainly think linearly until a crisis arises. The main focus is on the spreadsheets that should show results. The hunt for turnover makes people blind to other insights. Others have a different target and have to lay off staff but forget to see new business opportunities.

In service organizations there is no single solution that is applicable to 80% of the customers. You will have to understand what a customer needs and adjust your services accordingly. Who is talking to those customers? Who’s at their table?

Micro cosmos

Your company is a micro cosmos of customers, suppliers, employees, family, subcontractors. The fact that an IT department has been outsourced does not mean that it is no longer part of your organization. On the contrary, more than ever, you need to ensure that everyone understands your objectives.

But when do you sit around your table behind closed doors with your micro cosmos where everyone is equal do you allow everyone can have their say? Maybe for now, as an introduction to a #Resilient society, just a step too far. What I want to make clear is that creating an open culture in which people feel free to say what they want to share professionally is an important factor for the sustainability of your organization. The freedom to share knowledge and experience, but especially the mistakes that have been made, is a common learning process.

After a flight in the harshest conditions imaginable, I walked into the briefing room adjacent to the clubhouse with my flight bag. The silence was clear, people knew I had flown through poor conditions, I mean very poor. The weather closed in on me, much faster than expected. I had to navigate by looking sideways on the ground to be able to navigate. Rain blinded the canopy. I was alone and had to trust everything I’ve learned. I made a plan on where to divert to and called every step out lout although nobody was listening. I did not had time to be scared. I needed my head to stay clear.

The sun was setting behind a thick blanket of clouds. The ground was turning darker by the minute. Getting to my airport of destination was one thing…finding the airport was a totally different thing. Landing the damn thing was slightly different challenge.

I knew I was close, al my pre-made up plans worked so far. I had the details of my alternate airport close by. At the very moment I needed to abort this plan and start to navigate to my alternate airport the sun found a way to lit that small unlighted runway… the rain sparkled the runway in the dull black landscape. I was happy that my plan had worked, but I was also comfortable with the idea that I had several detailed alternatives available. I had decided in advance when I had to make which decision and what my alternative was. I just followed a predetermined path so that I could focus on the anomalies.

My instructor came to me with a beer and looked at me curiously … “And? He asked. I explained to him what situation I had ended up in and how I always looked at alternatives during the flight. I, despite being on my limits, was able to perform the flight safely, along the way other club members joined and my flight was widely discussed … no reproaches … they tried to understand my considerations. I then asked my instructor at the time if he believed that he had done that flight differently and what he thought of my landing, he replied that he cannot remember good landings and that the fact that he now could pour me a beer and the aircraft was undamaged in the hangar was a sign that I had made the right choices and that I had to look at myself in the mirror tonight if there were not a few points for improvement. Making mistakes is a prerequisite for learning. I understand this now.

Imagine sitting around a table with a customer and talking about your weaknesses, imagine sitting around a table with a customer talking about their weaknesses. When you have arrived at that level, you are also a lot further up in terms of Business Resilience Management. It is something that you have to develop together and together with your suppliers.

A person, you, learns from the moment when you must operate on the absolute limit. People learn from moments when others are at their limits. Together you learn from each other’s experiences so that when the opportunity arises, someone already has a solution shared with you…how cool is that? And believe me, when you need it the most, you will know all the details.

At NASA when something goes wrong during an mission, the Mission Manager calls to “close the doors”. At that moment everybody is equal. The mission is priority. Everybody has a say.

Everybody has limits. My limit is a little bit further than other’s. A boss often think they are in charge. A real manager is more of a coach, who guides people, ensures that his people grow. A boss cannot convince, if his power is lost he has a problem, a boss will tell you what to do. It can also be done differently. What matters is that you determine, regardless of positions, when you have succeeded … as a person.

Making mistakes is a prerequisite for learning. It is ok to make mistakes as long as you allow yourself to learn.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Rob Broeders

    Great story!
    Good advice for leadership and a strong vision, mate!
    I wish you a happy next flight….

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