Posts tagged " routine "

Lather, Rinse, Repeat – Again and Again

April 8th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

After two tragic airplane accidents, Boeing is in the news. Possible liability has depressed its stock price and shaved tens of billions of dollars off the company’s valuation.  I covered troubling questions of cut corners in the design of the latest generation of the 50-year-old 737 and the disturbing relationship between government and one of its largest military contractors in my podcast here.  However, today let’s look at the approximately 2,000 Boeing 737s in the air at any given time every day and the fifteen normal take-offs made by a 737 every single minute of every day. 

Before each 737 starts to taxi away from the gate, the pilot in the left seat and the first officer in the right work their way down a printed check list that each could recite by heart.  “Navigation lights” calls out one and the other glancing at the panel responds, “On.”  Then comes “Taxi Lights.”  “On.” This is followed by altimeter, radios and autopilot and the correct response for each is “Set.”  Not until the long check list has been completed does the airplane begin its pushback.

The repetitive routine could anesthetize ordinary people into robotic compliance.  But commercial pilots are not ordinary people, they’re professionals and they’ve trained themselves to view each and every run down the check list as if it was the first time.  They might have asked one another those same questions on three earlier flights that day but on the fourth, their eyes still scan each switch and gauge with the same alert focus they did on the first.  Their confirmations are still precise and accurate.

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Routine Rehab

March 12th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 17 comments

Have you fallen into any fixed habits?  I know I have.  I have uttered some phrases so many times that they are often the first expressions that come to mind. Not surprisingly, I occasionally overuse them.  It is also why I tend to buy the same brand of toothpaste year after year.  No, I do not know which brand nine-out-of-ten dentists prefer.  My brain just prefers not to think about toothpaste brands.

Do you greet customers or clients exactly as you did four years ago?  Do you respond with almost the same words no matter what question your child asks?  Do you welcome friends with the tired cliché you’ve always used?  Do you view a sunrise with habitual jaded indifference?  I began by asking if you’ve fallen into any fixed habits, but I already knew the answer.  I don’t know exactly what they are, but I do know that you’ve got them.

How do I know?  Well, because we all do it.  Over the last decade much research has been done on human habits.  For instance, a Duke University study concluded that habit rather than deliberation shapes over 40% of the decisions you and I make every day.  Both Columbia University and the University of Alberta measured the vital role that habit plays in exercising.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified how our brains convert repeated behaviors into habits thus reserving our real brain power for unpredictable circumstances.

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