Archives for September 2011

All Those Switches

A Common Question

In my job as an airline pilot, I love to have people come to the flight deck during boarding and chat about anything on their mind. A recurring question is, “How do you know what all these switches do?” First, about half of the “switches” are circuit breakers which generally do nothing and require nothing of me. (But I don’t point this out, because I want them to be impressed.) I usually pontificate about my years of training, etc., which is not far from the truth because in repeating the same tasks hundreds or thousands of times, our hands and eyes just know where to  go with no thought required. Long, complex checklists are reduced to a “flow” which we can do in seconds. This mental adaptation, whether in aviation or in your job, allows us to do formerly difficult tasks with no exertion.

Not So Routine

But sometimes things happen, and the old, not-so-bold pilot knows how to adapt. For example, the aircraft may have a temporary maintenance issue that puts us out of our routine. Let’s say this non-normal procedure requires us to flip a certain switch before lowering the flaps for landing. The wise pilot knows his (good) habits could become the enemy, and he will lower the flaps as normal. To block this mistake, he might place a coffee cup over the flap handle and keep it there the entire flight. Crude? Lacking a certain finesse? Yes, but our habits are crude and lacking finesse also. My point is, anything that takes us out of our routine can cause mistakes. Prevention of these mistakes requires purposeful action on our part.

Old Habits That Won’t Die

We changed the location of our silverware drawer about 10 years ago, and for the first nine I kept looking for spoons in the drawer with car keys and assorted junk. Slow learner, you say? Probably, but that’s not the issue here. Habits are place holders in our brain that free up space for more challenging problems. In computer lingo, we store low-level habitual tasks on inflexible ROM to keep the nimble, higher level brain (RAM) available for they things we really have to think about. I don’t expect to enter the kitchen every morning and formulate a plan to find a fork, in fact, I decided long ago where the forks were and hard-wired that location in my brain to save thinking capacity. But changes to the hard-wiring are difficult to make which is why changes in our work activity make us prone to mistakes (and it’s awfully hard to eat cottage cheese with a key fob).film The Shack streaming

What We Do Best

There are two things pilots know pretty well:

1. Where to find good food (cheap) in any city in the world, andstreaming John Wick: Chapter 2 2017 film

2. How to stay alive & healthy in a high risk environment.

Odievision exists to translate safe, healthy survival lessons and leadership effectiveness into UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES for ANY business. Our aviation background gives us tangible stories to hang the principles on so the lessons stick. Take a look around our site. We hope you will join the dialog because all of us are either learning or dying. Oh, and email us for restaurant recommendations!