Remember Chesley Sullenberger?
He was the pilot who safely landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 people on board. And as Professor Frank Bond told delegates at the Future Work Centre’s 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.
Reflecting on the experience later, Sullenberger used a banking analogy to describe how he built up this evidence. ‘One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training,’ he said. ‘And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.’
Not all evidence is created equal
That was just one of the 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 the Future Work Centre’s 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, including how to overcome barriers.
The 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 the Future Work Centre’s 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 may 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.
To find out more, you can download a write-up of the panel discussion at http://futureworkcentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/FWC-panel-discussion.pdf