Outliers’ KFS … Speak up if the plane is going to crash

This is one of several posts extracting some key points from the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, Little Brown, 2008

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Gladwell’s Observation

Historically (until recently), Korean airlines have had a disproportionate number of major commercial plane crashes.

Gladwell says that it’s because flight crew members are too deferential to the captains and downplay or sugar coat information that they give them.  It’s called “mitigated speech” — a result of a culturally high PDI (power distance index). 

When a culture’s PDI is high, deference to authority figures is high.  So, subordinates are reluctant to speak up — even in a crisis.

So, instead of yelling “pull up we’re too damn  low”, a co-pilot might ask “are we on the glideslope, sir?”.  So, critical information is either not conveyed, is conveyed casually, or requires an extra analytical step (or two) for its importance to be decoded.  Valuable time is lost in the process — sometimes fatally.

The countries with the highest PDI are: Brazil, Korea, Morocco, and Mexico.

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Important Note: the air lines in high PDI countries are aware of this dynamic (now) and train their flight crews accordingly.  So, not to worry.

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