On a recent trip overseas, I had the chance to read British Airways’ in flight magazine: BusinessLife. It’s one of those few magazines I’ll pick up and read nearly cover to cover on a sub-2 hour flight, and I usually pick up a tidbit here or there.
The particular article that jumped out at me was on page 46, Time to Wise Up, by Ashley Potter. Ms. Potter referencing an interview with Professor Hari Tsoukas, of the Warwick Business School:
Tsoukas cites the example of Admiral Thad Allen, the US National Incident Commander of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010–and formerly the Commandant of the US Coast Guard. When asked whether he used a ‘template’ from his previous experience of dealing with oil spills, he answered: Yes and no.”
“The ‘yes’ component reveals his experience of handling similar incidents in the past,” says Tsoukas. “But he also notes that every incident is different and its uniqueness must be grasped – hence the ‘no’ part of the answer.” (emphasis mine)
This resonated to me at the time, but as I will sometimes do, I set aside the article and find myself focused on something else. Well, I just happened to listen to the latest Saverocity Observation Deck Podcast, the unscripted, post FT4RL2 in Charlotte one. Well, about halfway through, the discussion turned to problems folks encounter when traveling, and how they resolve things. I think (please correct me if I’m wrong), Dan, from Points with a Crew, commented that folks that travel a lot, invariably run into issues. “One of the things about traveling more often, I think you’re right, we’re all kind’ve really savvy…. the more that you travel, the more that you’ll run into something… but having experience, and planning that something will go wrong, and how you recover from it.” Another speaker (Shawn of Miles To Memories), commented about his son is no longer a liability during issues, and is starting to understand how to recover from problems.
Its interesting, because when you think about it, traveling, you’ll invariably run into an issue, a flight gets cancelled, you get sick onboard a flight, you find yourself in a foreign country and a service you had requested didn’t show, or a multitude of other things. Not every experience is going to be the same, but you can usually put enough pieces together from your experiences, to say “well, this is sort’ve like that time in Bangkok,” and so you start by associating the similarities of your current situation to past experiences, almost as Admiral Allen says, as a ‘template’, then realize those unique items that are different, and figure out a resolution.
So what’s my point?
Not to borrow an over-used phrase, but travel is a great educator. While past performance is no indication of future events, it does inform the your actions. By traveling, you’re availing yourself to more experiences–good and sometimes bad–thus providing yourself more ‘templates’ to liken similarities too, and yet, also gives you a greater resource of experiences to interpret and respond to the uniqueness of each experience.