What the disappearance of flight MH370 can teach us about making changes.

By Amber Hudson

Yesterday the head of the International Air Transport Association, Tony Tyler, vowed “no airplane will ever go missing again by making sure that in the future planes can be tracked in real time.”

A commendable statement, sure, but I’m still not clear why such a statement needs to be made in 2014.  I mean, a man was put on the moon half a century ago, we can 3D print body parts, we can read our email through glasses, but we can’t find a massive jumbo jet?!  So many things puzzled me during my obsession with Flight MH370:

  • Why does the battery in the black box pinger only last for 30 days?
  • Why aren’t the pilots on constant communication with some sort of tower?
  • Why don’t alarm bells ring when communication is cut off?
  • Why aren’t passports screened more closely? (is it just me, or am I the only one who feels my passport is scrutinized to the point that I’m sweating like Billy Hayes in Midnight Express)?

Does it really take a catastrophic event to instill change?  Sadly, not even that is enough:  after Air France disappeared the only change was to increase the black box battery life to 90 days (flight MH370 hadn’t installed the new batteries).  After Sandy Hook, no gun control changes were made that I’m aware of.  And we’re keeping a close eye on GM after their faulty ignition switch caused 13 deaths.

So the lessons are pretty clear for marketers:  don’t wait for a disaster to make changes.  Pull together a SWAT team to scenario plan and develop innovation solutions.  Whether it’s organizational change, new technology, new processes, don’t wait until it’s too late.  Yes, change is a complex, resource-consuming endeavor, but better to fix it now than wait and say I told you so.