Learn from the Past... Prepare for the Future

We have a motto that we like and frequently use here at Diamond6, "Learn from the past… Prepare for the future”. That’s part and parcel what we do— we try to look at very famous historical events and use those as case studies to examine leadership concepts and principles that we would argue are every bit as impactful on people today in the 21st century as they were for people back in those days.

Some of those case studies include the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Watergate, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of the Alamo, and Apollo 13 — all very iconic events.

Our motto, “Learn from the past… Prepare for the future” is something that all leaders need to think about. It struck me the other day as I was doing some reading that a very classic example had just occurred. Admiral Scott Swift who was the commander of all U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific decided to create a new exercise for the fleet out there, called Fleet Problems. He examined the past and realized that between 1923 and 1940, the U.S. Navy ran a whole series of training regimines using that title, Fleet Problems, which were designed to replicate realistic maneuvers at sea in future conflict.

These were very, very important in preparing the United States Navy for the massive war that would occur, particular in the Pacific theater, beginning with the Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Swift realized that he needed to take that particular ‘learning from the past to prepare for the future’ and think about the future right now. He realized that when he took command that though the fleet was very, very well trained, it was not as well prepared as he would like for high-end conflict which he feared would be more likely now due to a focus that has occurred over the last couple decades for the Navy on supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As he constructed that he also suggested another very important thought…

“We had to convey to operational leaders throughout the Pacific Fleet that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated, it was expected, so we could in fact learn.” - Admiral Scott Swift

What can we take away from that particular idea that will be useful for any leader, anywhere? I would suggest three thoughts…

1. After Action Review

As we go through particular events for our organization, or even at times routine day-to-day activities that we do on a fairly regular basis, perhaps working with a series of very regular clients. We pause periodically, sit down with our team, and have a really solid After Action Review. How can we make what we're doing a little bit better? What did we learn from what we just did?

2. Encourage and accept mistakes

We’ve got to encourage and be willing to accept mistakes and failure in order to empower our team to demonstrate initiative and think into the future. And second of all, frankly, demonstrate that we as a leader are willing to take that particular risk to make that organization a little bit better.

3. Seek examples to test new ideas

We have to seek examples from the past that we can use to test new ideas and concepts for our organization as we move into the future.

So I would urge all leaders to take a moment and say to themselves, “How can I learn from the past to prepare myself and my organization for the future?”

We want to hear from YOU! How do you learn from the past to prepare for the future? Share your comments below.