What the Miracle on the Hudson can teach us about making better decisions

FWC Launch Event-002

Remember Chesley Sullenberger?

He was the pilot who safely landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew on board. And as Professor Frank Bond told delegates at our launch event, No More Blind Faith – Just the Facts, he did it by making good use of all the available evidence. In other words, he took an evidence-based approach.

In his 42-year career, Sullenberger had researched catastrophic risk management, written accident reports, completed formal and informal training and, of course, flown a lot of planes. So when US Airways Flight 1539 struck a flock of geese, damaging the engines, he was able to call upon a wealth of scientific, professional and experiential evidence as well as his and his organisation’s values to help him make a decision.

No more blind faith – just the facts

That was just one of the great stories to emerge at the event, which aimed to help delegates use evidence to make better decisions about people and work – a core part of our mission of making work better for everyone.

Over the course of a sunny July morning, an academic and a practitioner shared their perspectives on why evidence matters and how to use it, and how to overcome barriers. The two experts – Professor Frank Bond, director of the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Wayne Mullen, senior director of global leadership and capability at an online gaming company – then joined our insight director Dr Richard MacKinnon for a lively and interesting panel discussion.

Delegates left the event armed with lots of insights and advice, including:

  • Not all evidence is created equal: there often isn’t enough of it, it isn’t diverse or clear enough and we don’t judge it critically for its quality or relevance, or use it in a systematic way.
  • Assessing the evidence in front of us means adopting a mindset of ‘enlightened scepticism’: who’s done this research, and with which population? How’s it going to relate to me, in my context?
  • There’s no one-size-fits-all approach or universal truth: evidence applicable in one organisation could be less useful in another.
  • Gathering and assessing scientific evidence is just one part of the process – there’s also room for using your professional judgement.
  • Taking an evidence-based approach can sometimes be challenging, time-consuming and hard to sell to your stakeholders. But it’s far more likely to give you the outcome you want.

Richard MacKinnon said: ‘I’m delighted we attracted such an enthusiastic and interested audience for this morning’s launch. A big thank you to everyone who came along and contributed to what I hope will be an ongoing debate on the importance of evidence-based practice.

‘We managed to cover the academic and practitioner perspectives on this topic, as well as share some of our own initial research findings. My sincere thanks to Professor Frank Bond and Wayne Mullen for their excellent contributions and support.’

Want to know more? Download the panel discussion

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