Every Day is a School Day (Even on Holiday)

This summer, my Wife Annie and I decided to do pretty much the same holiday to Florida as we did last year.

This time we went without the children – for the first time in our lives!  Of course this went down like a sick sandwich with them, but given that they are 23 and 20, I figured the free-loading little tykes have had enough out of us for the time being and it was time for us to enjoy ourselves unencumbered.

As much as I would love to just tell you about our holiday there is a point to this blog entry, and it is how much I learned while I was away and from such diverse sources.  Every day is a school day they tell me and this was no exception.

I have to start with Baseball. Baseball is my favourite sport by a long way and we go and see a ball game every time we go to the States. I love the drama; the family atmosphere; the intricacies of the game and of course, the stories and history that surrounds it. Last year, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series 108 years after last winning it. This was the longest losing streak between Championships in sporting history.  The Cubs therefore had the longest suffering fans in the world, yet despite this misery, their motto remained “We Believe!” How is that for loyalty through dark and difficult times? If you can induce that in your workforce, then you are a true leader my friend!  What makes the Cubs victory even more of a great story though is the fact that there are 108 stitches on a major league baseball – one for every year of pain in Chicago. Surely with that in mind they were destined to win last year?

Chicago Cubs

Photograph by Jonathan Daniel — Getty Images

The next trip was to the Kennedy Space Centre.  We go there every time we visit Florida and the fascination never wears off.  This year the new Astronaut Hall of Fame had opened and its main function is a celebration of those first pioneering Mercury astronauts – Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton.  Those of you of a certain age will remember that the Tracey brothers in Thunderbirds were named after the first 5 mentioned here. These guys were so on the edge of the cutting edge of aviation that they were history makers.  Seeing their artefacts in the Hall of Fame such as flying jackets, cockpit kneeboards etc showed that most of us in Inzpire are from the same pedigree, just removed by a couple of decades – I wonder what John Glenn would have made of a GECO kneeboard when he orbited the earth for the first time?

It is very moving to see the memorials for fallen astronauts and the wreckage from NASA’s most public of accidents (Challenger and Columbia) on display elsewhere in the park. We reference NASA a lot in our Human Factors courses and I like the fact that they are not afraid to show their failures as well as their successes. We learn a lot in life from failure and our Stress Management sessions are all about taking those lessons and helping to build resilience from those experiences. It is so much better to learn from each other and not make the mistake ourselves, don’t you think? On the way back to Orlando we happened upon a Warbird Museum and I talked Annie into having a quick look around. I bored her rigid showing her around the F18 I used to fly (she was more concerned with the giant spider on the floor of the hangar to be fair to her) and then took her back in time to show her around an old Phantom in the Cold War hangar.  There’s only so much I can explain about aux air doors before even I get bored, but I happened upon gold when I pushed in one of the step in panels, pushed the button and down popped the internal steps. Annie is generally easily pleased, but she thought this was exceptionally cool and I was her hero again for at least 5 minutes.

Of course no holiday to Florida is complete without a trip to Universal Studios and Disney.  Universal have recreated the world of Harry Potter and it is spectacular. The sights and smells and even the tastes of things such as the Butterbeer are exactly how people picture them from the books and films. In essence they have given the customer exactly what they want, and need, knowing it to be right in the first place. You can see on customers’ faces that they truly believe they are in Hogsmeade or on Platform 9¾. Getting a real picture of what the customer wants is what Inzpire try to do when we build bespoke training courses for them. You can only do this by seeing things from their point of view rather than just pulling something off the shelf and ticking a few boxes.  Lots of the rides at Universal and Disney are simulations of environments and adventures, and they mirror what our Synthetic Training team does at the ABTC at RAF Waddington. They immerse the customer in a world that they know is not real, but also know they must react to if they are to get the full enjoyment and experience out of it.  However, it is a bit disturbing to see grown men wearing wizarding robes and waving wands about, but hey? Who am I to judge (in my Mickey Mouse ears).

On to Disney then. That Mouse has transformed Florida, family entertainment and the thickness of Walt Disney’s wallet.  What started as a cartoon has grown into a world-leader in imagination and innovation and even magic – there I said it! Going to Disney is a truly wonderful experience even without children. If you look past the enormous queues and crowds and the arguing and fractious British families you will see Disney for what it is – magical. Disney are so good at what they do they are a model for other businesses and offer training courses at their own Institute to help develop other companies in terms of values, efficiency, leadership and employee engagement etc.  There are lots of articles about their values and Mission Statements, but the one I like is their old Vision Statement; the essence of why they do what they do.  Disney’s vision statement used to be “To make people happy.”  What could be simpler than that? They believe that if you achieve that then the Customer will always come back to you. They do that through 4 values which are: Innovation, High Standards of Excellence, Commitment to positive inclusive ideas about family (ie their customer) and Storytelling!  Sound familiar? Welcome to the Human Factors and Safety Division at Inzpire!  If I can achieve even a fraction of what Disney strive for then I know I am on the right track in the Division.

And just to check if the CEO reads the Inzpire Blog, I intend to book myself on an all expenses paid course at the Disney Institute in Florida unless I hear from him otherwise…

…Tug has left the building.


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