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the gift of seeing into the future

April 4, 2014

The last slide was headed “Take home messages.” Along with Take the time now to review what worked and what didn’t and Do not fail to plan was this statement:

Don’t do it the first time for real!

Many organisations have plans in place to deal with emergency situations, natural disasters and other types of business interruptions. Not all those organisations actually practice their plans. Apparently only a handful then think outside the limits of the plans as they are written to wonder “What if …?” or ask someone outside the organisation to assess their performance, give feedback and facilitate reflection.

Practice is critically important because when you are actually in it, doing it under pressure, you get to see first hand the quality of the decisions you make. You can see how you and other people on your team behave under pressure and find out what you will actually do when there are only two of you left and there are seven things that need to be done – now!

Reflecting on how you behaved after the event, wondering “What if…?” and inviting feedback from others helps you to imagine new possibilities.

That kind of experience gives you the gift of seeing into the future so you can come back to the present and do things differently.

I think Ric Elias would agree. You probably don’t know Ric but  you might have heard about the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009? Ric had a seat in the front row. His five-minute TED talk 3 things I learned while my plane crashed is a compelling take on the same theme. Your life can change in an instant.

That kind of experience gives you the gift of seeing into the future so you can come back to the present and live differently.

It happens during a Samurai Game – not the plane crash but the opportunity to see into the future! You get the opportunity to practice, to do it under pressure, and then to reflect with others who have shared the experience with you. What the majority of people are surprised to discover is that they often have completely different perceptions of what actually happened.  They always have different justification for their behaviors and the choices they made – different justifications for how they lived.

Sharing “what I would do in that situation” is one thing, discussing and reflecting on”what I did in that situation” is another thing altogether.

You need the people in your organisation practicing before they have to do it for real. Ethical case studies, like the documents that set out your emergency plan, are a good place to start but they don’t give you the experience that comes with actual practice. Coaching people to improve their communication or leadership style by saying “not everyone sees the situation the same way that you do” is not anywhere near as powerful as the opportunity to experience the subjective nature of our shared reality first hand.

The greatest value comes from the kind of experience that lets you see into the future so you can come back to the present and be differently.

Whatever it is – you need to find an opportunity to practice it. Emergency response plans, ethical decision-making, difficult conversations or even CPR.

Find a way to practice. Today.

You don’t want to do any of them the first time for real.


This is a revisiting of a post first published in 2011 called don’t do it the first time for real. If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

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