The Plane Truth – by Kanishka Sinha, AsiaWorks Associate, India
In his book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell relates the case study of how Korean airlines turned around their safety record.
Between 1988 and 1998 Korean airlines had a loss rate of 4.79 per million departures – 17 times higher than a typical American carrier like United Airlines over the same period. It was one of the most infamous safety records in the world and became a source of national shame. However since 1999 its safety record is spotless and in 2006 it was given the Phoenix Award by Air Transport World in recognition of its transformation.
David Greenberg, who was hired to turn things around, made one crucial but puzzling change – he incurred huge training costs and changed the language of conversation of the pilots and crew to English. It was mandated that they speak to each other in a language they were uncomfortable with.
Greenberg realized that a lot of the crashes were happening because co-pilots were not articulating their point of view due to a hierarchical culture. Crashes were more likely to happen when captains were at the wheel than when co-pilots were even though Captains are generally far more experienced pilots. This was deduced to be because if a co-pilot was flying and missed something the captain would not hesitate in pointing it out but if the captain was flying and missed something the co-pilot would respectfully (or fearfully) hold back from offering his point of view. Countries with a highly hierarchical culture have the worst flight safety records and countries with the flattest structures have the best.
Greenberg realized that in order for co-pilots to speak directly they had to get past their cultural traditions of hierarchy and seniority and by communicating in English rather than Korean they were able to construct almost a new identity for the relationship. This allowed them, to a much greater extent, circumvent the cultural discourse they had grown up in.
And of course the same trend is likely to show up in our organizations too. If loyal, engaged managers want to make a contribution to their company – sometimes the best way to demonstrate loyalty is not by following the norm and going along with the flow but by trusting your boss and telling him what he needs to know, even if it means challenging his judgment – so that you can support him in doing his job effectively.
Tan Wah Ching SLP92 & Garett Lee SLP111
Many people come through our trainings and once in a while a really magical moment occurs. In our first Graduate Showcase, we would like to introduce you to 2 amazing LPs from Singapore who recently got engaged in a surprise event fit only for a fairytale. The event was supported by the Asiaworks office and LPs. Meet Garett, a Swim School business owner, LP111 and Wah Ching, a Dentist, LP92.
Why did you decide to do the Basic Training?
Wah Ching: To be able to expand my social circle and make new friends with ease.
Garett: I decided to do the Basic Training because of Wah Ching, she enrolled me! We were almost five months into our relationship and things were going well, especially after we just enjoyed our first 3 weeks overseas trip together. However, when I asked her if there was anything about myself that I could improve on for our relationship, she said to improve on “my sense of being”. Not knowing what this meant, I was enrolled into the Basic Training to find out for myself!
Wah Ching: Well, since the start of the journey I had declared that I want to be in a relationship with a committed, loving man. I found him after 2 years and we will be getting married this year. I found myself and chose to love myself, in doing so I am able to love another.
Garett: The LP journey was probably the toughest bit I had to put myself through for a long while. Just ask my coach, Alim! Every time I think about it, I feel what a thorn in his flesh I was! And in the process, I had to focus outwards, and discovered I had so much to give to people around me, more than I knew of myself. That was a revelation. I never thought I could inspire but now I realize I can.
Garett: I find myself being able to apply richly in my daily life the need to be on contract – “I am a committed, loving and real man”, especially towards Wah Ching, who is the love of my life. Somehow, it has become a creed of sorts to live by and to uphold. The intensity of the Advanced training has embed the experience deeply.
In the midst of running and seeking to expand my swim school business, I find myself coming back often to the notion of “What’s possible?” when faced with hiccups and challenges. And when the going gets too tough, I rely on the LP pillar “My vision and commitment dictate my actions, and not my feelings, assessments and evaluations!” to remind myself to keep pressing on. Not that it ever gets easier, but the experience has shaped me to be better prepared.
What were the biggest outcomes for you as a result of the training.
Wah Ching: I got to understand myself, my fears, my talents, my beauty, etc. I overcame my stage fright, became sociable, and had a group of friends for life. I enjoy and love my job even more and am doing well in it. I got closer to God, and learnt to trust God in his time. I found the love of my life, Garett, who is a committed, gentle, loving and caring man, (who happens to have a great voice and sings well:)
Garett: Improving my sense of being! haha… goal achieved! By the end of LP, I learnt what it can truly mean to step out of one’s comfort zone to achieve better results. Not just a positive mindset mumbo jumbo talk, but truly walking the talk and being pushed to not make excuses. The experience of the trainings from Basic to Advanced to LP were very emotional for me. At Basic, I could not really dig deep, and it was only at advanced that I managed to. But even so, my LP journey was tough for me and I probably would have quit if not for several factors, like living up to my conscience in the future and also not wanting to disappoint Wah Ching. In that sense, perseverance was another element I had acquired. Notably, the pillars in LP are all very applicable in real life!
What are you “up to” nowadays that you deemed “impossible” prior to doing the Basic?
Wah Ching: The ability to hold a conversation with a stranger. Also the ability to treasure those around me, just as they are and not asking them to change, cos the change comes from me.
Garett: Asking for support!