On 6th December 1941, the Japanese attacked the American base of Pearl Harbour. Whilst this is not news, it struck me that 2 interesting paradigms led to the terrible loss of life. The Americans believed that:
- a war from the air was impossible
- the main weapon of war at sea was the Battleship and not the Aircraft Carrier
Within 2 hours, the Japanese had rewritten the rules of combat by showing both paradigms to be incorrect and virtually destroying the US Pacific fleet.
Many business strategists use this lesson as a discussion point in scenario & risk planning in order to formulate options to be on the leading edge of future paradigm ‘bursting’.
However, whilst important, strategists forget that the Americans were not knocked out of the war and that paradigm resetting may not be the biggest learning point from the attack.
The Americans banded together as a nation, created a shared vision and drew strength from the defeat. Production was improved and materials and resources created incredibly efficiently to give battlefield dominance.
New innovations in manufacturing and weaponry were created to give a technological edge.
Moving and symbolically, many of the damaged ships and resources from the December attack were repaired and returned to the war and, tellingly, were part of the Battle for Midway Island where veterans of Pearl Harbour from both sides engaged in a new type of sea battle.
This national resilience was facilitated by the imperative of war, but I believe, companies and teams forget one of the key success factors of business – that resilience is the actual secret to turning disaster to triumph rather than just attempting to second guess the future.
At a practical level, seeing disasters taking place in business is too late to be tackling issues! Managers need to focus on mistakes as a practical method to begin to build resilience in the organisation by tackling the issues at the team and individual level.
Every day, mistakes are made in business and managers can choose to focus on allocating blame or to get people to ‘bounce back’ better and stronger. Every day, people make mistakes and become stressed and demoralised rather than seeing this is an iterative process where things are happening and initiatives are tried and tested. Allocating responsibility and choice to people allows them to build accountability, pride and resilience by returning control to those who need it most.
Some leadership gurus discuss the relative merits of rewarding new ideas and concepts, but we suggest this should be taken further.
Managers and leaders should be rewarded on the new ideas and suggestions they have garnered and facilitated from their teams as part of a process to build resilience.
Individual resilience can be created through a process of building emotional, physical and cognitive toughness and team and organisational resilience can be created by the creation of suitable performance cultures through cultural re-engineering processes.
Recent resilience programmes have shown dramatic reductions in success and improvements in performance across a range of sectors and QED can help assess and monitor current levels of resilience and create an action to deliver tangible results in individual performance from increases in performance.
Whilst your own company or team may not face destruction, the lessons from Pearl Harbour can help focus managers on the need to be able to raise resilience so that difficult issues can be aired and challenged, sustained innovation can take place and that everyone can contribute to the raising of standards and performance