As we send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan, we need to consider the role that these unthinkable events play in our lives. In Japan, earthquakes and tsunamis are not unthinkable events, they are everyday occurrences, but that commonality has not bread national complacency, rather, it has heightened awareness about how bad a big version of a nearly daily event could be. Building codes and warning systems were invested in. As tragic the loss of life will likely be, people’s lives were saved because the Japanese government, its leaders and its citizens were willing to think about the unthinkable and plan for it. And I know that months from now, they will say they could have done more—humbleness about what we don’t know is the place were learning begins.
All organizations need to take a lesson from Japan. Your lesson may come from annoying, low level customer complaints that don’t seem to add up to much, until some catastrophic event happens, as it did a few years ago with vitamin and pet food quality and safety coming out of Chinese factories, or the issues of Toyota and their passenger threatening sticky carpet. Big things are often culminate when we ignore weak signals.
Japan knew about the weak signals, and it heeded their warning.
What weak signals is your company, your function, receiving but ignoring? What disaster are you facilitating by not paying attention to the world around you?