Learning from Athletes and Co-pilots


checklistI have been reading again, this time about sports psychology. And I have been watching the TV-show “Air Crash Investigations”. So I have been thinking lately about what I am getting out of this. My mind is continuously returning to two things that keep grabbing the attention of my cortex, visualization and checklists. How can I use this in my job? And can you benefit from this in your job?

To improve their own performance a pro athlete use visualization in order to imagine their own movements. How should they move their arms what does a great performance look like? I like the thought of bringing this into the office. How should a great day look? How should you close the sales? What does a great dialogue with a customer feel like? Can you picture yourself having a great day at work? What are you doing? What should you focus on, to get the outcome you want? After you have found out what a good day at work looks like, analyze it to find out the things that you contribute with and just do it.

“A checklist is used as an aid to memory. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. A basic example is the “to do list.” A more advanced checklist would be a schedule, which lays out tasks to be done according to time of day or other factors.” – Wikipedia

If anything goes wrong, or for any other procedure you will find a checklist in aviation. I have been watching Air Crash Investigation on National Geographic Channel lately, and no I am not scared of flying. What I see in this TV show is all the work they are doing to prevent these things from happening again; it helps me feel more secure in a plane. So what can we learn? Checklists are a good thing. It will make sure that things run smoothly. Let’s bring this into the cubicle nation. Imagine that you hire someone new, have you ever forgotten something? Like providing stationary, or username for the local network or access to some program, or maybe even forgot to provide a desk? If you miss a thing or two, your first impression will suffer and you might see a drop in motivation. I got feedback from one of my employees that the first time alone on nightshift was scary, – Note to self, put into my checklist that I will be here the first time someone new is alone on night shift. It will never happen again, if you use a checklist.

Imagine someone leaving your company, have you made sure to shut down access to your customer database? Or to forward e-mail from their old address to the main address of the department or company? If a customer e-mails someone that left a long time ago, and they do not get an answer, your company is the one that suffers.

Imagine how you should have a great day at work.
And then write down the things you can do or influence. Voila you got your first checklist  

Writing a blog post about checklists and visualization; Checked.

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1 Comment on "Learning from Athletes and Co-pilots"

  1. Frode,

    I think your TV viewing is generating some very useful thoughts.

    Most people I know use checklists of some sort to get through the day. However, it’s often difficult to get people to take the time to imagine the future–what could go wrong, or what the possible opportunities might be. And then, make a checklist to deal with those.

    When we teach Potential Problem Analysis and Potential Opportunity Analysis, it’s often the first time many people have looked at those in a structured way.

    On a personal note: I once had a two-year engagement working with and airline in the Middle East. I learned much from the pilots and their checklists and back-up systems. There is nothing left to chance; each system has at least 3 back-up systems. If we look at the tiny percentage of airline accidents, it might become obvious that your suggestions have already proven to generate great value.

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