When the crash rate for air travel shrank to 0.04% per 100 million miles, it was not because pilots became smarter—it was because smarter systems were put in place. Expectations placed on pilots became more realistic and training became more effective. The reasons behind this reveal some key lessons for entrepreneurs who are building their business and constantly refining their management processes.
- Lesson 1: People in crisis make the most simplistic decisions, not the most strategic ones.
Emotional reactions disrupt our rational thinking and can derail our otherwise logical plans of action. The correct answer sometimes does go against instinct. To steady a plane, for example, a pilot must sometimes accelerate while going down, or brake while going up. These actions, although they feel counter-intuitive, are proven to work, but in a crisis it can be that much more difficult to act against our instincts. When our fight-or-flight instincts take over, that crisis-mindset overrides the logical, strategic thinking we need. So, it’s imperative that there are management processes, fail-safes, and a system of checks and balances in place to guard against this natural human tendency to default to emotional thinking in high-pressure situations.
- Lesson 2: Practical training should be built into the system.
In the earlier days of pilot training, much of the learning took place by way of a regimen nicknamed “chalk and talk,” which included, you guessed it, lectures at a blackboard. The problem with this method goes back to how we react in times of crisis: trying to remember book learning and lecture notes when facing an urgent, dangerous situation is difficult, if not downright impossible. If a pilot has been through numerous realistic practice runs, however, she can react by calling upon muscle memory and visceral experience of that very situation. When intensive training via flight simulators was required as a major part of training, the outcomes were, predictably, much better. Training should incorporate both explanation and experiential components prior to any real-world tests.