012: Sit on your hands

I once interviewed a 747 pilot as part of a technology insight project.

I wanted to gather insights on peoples decision making with information they intuitively knew from experience vs. information they could access using technology.

As an armchair social scientist, I was fascinated by what actually happens in the brain when we consult a map on an app or make use of verbal directions for example. Cognitive Dissonance is the term when two conflicting ideas exist at the same time in the head. It affects decision making and reasoning. You might have experienced a game where you read words of one colour, whilst their font is coloured in another. RED for example in BLUE ink. Our reading speed slows down as our brain processes what it sees and knows. All very interesting.

One of the most fascinating things the pilot told me was when, if all power fails in a jumbo at cruising altitude, the drill is to do nothing.

Move away from the controls.


Then sit on your hands.

Then have a conversation with your co-pilot and first officer about what’s going on. Then you run through the checklists and work through the emergency drills. The problem will be troubleshooted. And at 35,000 ft, there is enough time for you to work through the problem and solve it. How very reassuring.

In project workshop facilitation, nothing as distressing as losing an aircraft ever happens. The fire alarm might sound, the tea trolley could arrive early, or a mouse might scuttle across the floor (it happened), but people’s lives are rarely at risk.

Sitting on your hands is good advice though.

Keen as you are to get to ‘the answer’ and rightly so, there is always a bit of time to enjoy a distraction, embrace a challenge, get stuck and go off-piste. If you can do that creatively and with good cheer, then you and your project participants are in good hands.

If you can’t, then as a facilitator, you’re holding on to the controls too tightly…