Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 was on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina, when, two minutes after takeoff, a flock of Canadian geese flew into the aircraft causing both engines to fail. The passengers braced for impact. As the plane fell from the sky, the freezing waters of the Hudson River came into view and Flight 1549 hit the water at 150 mph. Dave Stockton, a businessman on the plane, said later in a television interview, “When you think you're going to die, you start thinking about your life… your family, little league baseball, things like in a movie." All 156 passengers survived the crash in the 36° water and their lives were changed forever.
This was a totally unexpected occurrence in everyone’s life that morning. But what was a sure disaster became a much different story than anyone could have imagined.
Captain Sullenberger told Katie Couric in an interview on ABC that, while this emergency was unexpected, he was not unprepared.
“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years I've been making small regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."
What was evident to everyone on Flight 1549 was that this captain had spent sufficient time preparing himself for the unexpected. The unexpected occurs every day in our business and personal lives. Those who are wise always expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly. How do you prepare for the unexpected?
Every business has a number of experiences, personal and corporate, positive and negative, in its history. It is impossible to run a business without facing and overcoming difficulty. The collective wisdom learned ought to be shared. Rather than forgetting and burying past mistakes, those who are wise will take the time to review and discuss past solutions and new ways to confront problems should they, or any problems similar, come again. This is not about assigning blame, but about discovering what went wrong and why. The corporate memory of senior employees to review problems in the past can help prevent them in the future. The experience of Capt. Sullenberger made the difference in the lives of everyone on board.
In the archives of every business, whether it is entrepreneurial or corporation, big or small, events have occurred that need to be discussed and reviewed with an emphasis on discovering answers to past problems.