Fighter Pilots and Entrepreneurs – How Organizations Learn

Fighter Pilots and Entrepreneurs – How Organizations Learn
July 17, 2019 admin
In Podcasts
Ofir Paldi on Organizational Learning

Learning from mistakes is a team process used by fighter pilot squadrons.

In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn chats with entrepreneur and former fighter pilot Ofir Paldi to discuss learning organizations.


Ray Zinn: Welcome to another Tough Things First podcast. This is a fantastic opportunity to be with you again today, and to just talk about, really, some very fundamental and good business principles.

My guest today is none other than Ofir Paldi. He is an entrepreneur from Israel. He’s only been here in this country, in the United States, for seven months. His company is Shamaym. He’s got about 25 people in this company. I’m going to let Ofir tell you a bit about himself, and his company before we jump right into the podcast.

Ofir, tell us a bit about Shamaym, and what it means, and a bit about what your company does?

Ofir Paldi: So, Ray, first of all, thank you for inviting me to the podcast, a great honor.

Shamaym actually means sky, or heaven. Before I’ll tell exactly what we are doing, I want to ask you to try and imagine an organization that every day becomes better than the day before. Organizations that every day, each one of its employees becomes better than the day before. An organization that everybody feels free to speak about their mistakes, to share their mistakes, to learn from their mistakes and from others. It sounds a bit off topic, maybe, but this is the reality for us, and for the organizations that we are working with.

I actually had a background in the Israeli Air Force, where what we call a debriefing culture is an amazing tool to create both a continuous learning organization, and a culture of excellence, accountability, transparency, and never repeating a mistake.

We believe that one of the biggest challenges that we have today, as people and organizations, is an actual ability to learn and improve from our day-to-day performance because we live in a very intense world and we just don’t have time to do anything. If you add the fact that most organizations don’t have the culture that allows people to speak about their mistakes, you’ll understand why it’s so difficult to create a culture of continuous improvement. This is what we do.

Our mission is to enable organizations to constantly learn from their performance, share lessons, reduce repeated mistakes, and build the learning organization. We do it by an AI based technology, and professional services to support it, and to create the culture in the company that allows the implementation.

Ray Zinn: How do you use AI, then, to do this? Can you explain that a little better, Ofir?

Ofir Paldi: Yeah. We built a technology that allows the organizations to actually customize the product to their needs, to create teams for learning, processes for learning, each team and what they need. Now we’re working on actually doing two things.

The first one, we call it the clustering, is the ability for a manager to get insights from all the lessons learned, that are gathering into the app. Imagine the world’s largest data of lessons learned, people who just feel comfortable to write their mistakes, to write their lessons learned, to create hundreds of thousands and then millions of lessons learned. From that, you can cluster it, team managers, to see what are the main one or two things that they need to focus in the organization.

In the next step, we are actually about to build, you can call it the learning system, and actual tool that will allow people to write not only lessons, but quality lessons. It will support them at the process of writing the lessons.

Ray Zinn: So, Ofir, is this an app that’s available online? How does one get access to the app?

Ofir Paldi: Yeah, for now we are a B2B company. Usually, an organization that wants to actually create the continuous learning culture calls us, and then we bring both the app and our services in order to create the culture, to build a new language, and to support with the processes of implementation.

Ray Zinn: Okay.

Anybody who is listening to this podcast, how do they get a hold of that app, or how do they contact you?

Ofir Paldi: Yeah, you can just go to our website, Shamaym.com. Shamaym is S-H-A-M-A-Y-M.

Ray Zinn: Well, good.

Well, you know, just jumping now into the discussion on willing to admit and deal with mistakes that we make, what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen over my many years, having served as a CEO for a semi-conductor company for 37 years … What I’ve noticed is that the reason people are unwilling to admit they make a mistake is they just don’t want to have to correct it.

Ofir Paldi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ray Zinn: In other words, if you don’t admit you made a mistake, then you don’t have to correct it. Do you understand what I’m saying, Ofir?

Ofir Paldi: Yeah. I think you’re right. People need to want to change in order to actually change. You can’t create … It’s very difficult to create the continuous improving organization when people don’t have the motivation to improve. Although you have to have the motivation, I think it will bring in a concept that is so simple and so actionable, and valuable, that even in those kind of organizations, you can see people changing.

Still, I totally agree with your lesson from it. You need to have good people, you need to want to actually improve.

Ray Zinn: How do you get them to want to change?

I mean, it’s easy to admit you made a mistake if you want to change, but if you don’t want to change, admitting you make a mistake is almost impossible. It’s an oxymoron, Ofir.

What are some of the lessons learned in your experience, that gets people to really want to change?

Ofir Paldi: Yeah. A few things that we saw.

The first one is that you have to have good managers, and good leaders to lead it. When the manager will stand up and say, this was my mistake and this is what I learned from, everything is changed in the organization.

I have so many amazing examples from our partners, our customers about CEOs who stood up in front of the whole company and say, this is what I did wrong, this is what I learned from. If you just see the crowd, if you see the employees, how they’re looking at them, it’s like the company, until this moment, and from this moment.

Of course, it’s not one time and that’s it, but that’s part of the journey to become a learning organization. You need to have the leaders to lead it. That’s the first.

Ray Zinn: You know, that’s a good point, Ofir.

Look at your country, Israel and look at our country here in the United States. The political leaders will not admit they make a mistake. I’ve never heard your leaders ever admit they made a mistake, and I never hear our leaders saying they made a mistake. We’re being led by the wrong people.

Ofir Paldi: I totally agree. We actually have, talking now in Israel, is a big media press to maybe do some kind of a podcast with politicians about their mistakes. If we’ll do it, I can come back with lessons from it.

Ray Zinn: I’d like to hear that. I’d like to … If you do get a chance to have a podcast …

I’m going to talk to my team and see if we can get a podcast with a politician from our country and you do the same, you get a podcast with some of your politicians and we’ll combine them. How does that sound, Ofir?

Ofir Paldi: That sounds amazing.

Ray Zinn: Yeah. We’ll go to school on that and see if we can do that.

Ofir Paldi:  I think you’re right, politics is a very hard place to implement this culture. We’re focusing on business.

Ray Zinn: They’re the leaders, though. They’re the ones that are setting the example.

You know, you hear about them in all the media. You don’t hear about companies so much as you do about the political leaders. Even so, let’s go back to our companies that we know, like Tesla or Amazon, or Apple, Uber. They never admit they made a mistake. I’ve never, ever heard them say they made a mistake.

Ofir Paldi: I can tell you that we have a few customers that actually had issues with their customers, so they decided to debrief it, and then share the debrief with their customers. They said it was just amazing to see.

We do it all the time. We debrief ourselves every big project, we have a monthly [inaudible 00:10:48] committee, with our customers to go over the implementation status. In every meeting, we are adding our lessons, and telling about what we think we didn’t do well enough in the last month.

I think that creates a much better partnership between you and the customer. It’s more real, it’s more right. It’s amazing to see. It’s great to see that our customers are also doing it with their customers.

Ray Zinn: What I’ve found is that the employees of a company tend to blame the customer for the problems. They just say, the customer doesn’t understand, or the customer misused the product. They were never wrong. We are never wrong. Excuse me. As a customer, that’s wrong. He just doesn’t understand.

I think that’s true of us, as individuals, that we just say, well, people just don’t understand. They don’t understand me, they don’t understand my problems, they want to blame me. It’s that victim.

Even if you go back and look at your experiences with the Israeli Air Force, the pilots that are unwilling to admit they made a mistake, they’re victims. They take a victim attitude, don’t you think?

Ofir Paldi: Exactly.

I didn’t talk about it yet, but our concept has three main values that are always up there.

The first value is that when you debrief, you can only debrief yourself. You can never talk about someone else. Always, what was your part? Okay, you and I are going to debrief together this podcast. You invited me, and whatever. I just joined and said what I said. I can still debrief only myself, I can’t say anything about you because you are you. I want to control the situation, I want to change it for next time, so I have to make sure that I’m changing something for next time. That’s the most important part of the concept.

Ray Zinn: You know, you’re correct. You can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself.

Ofir Paldi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ray Zinn: That’s a mistake that most of us make, is that we try to change others before we change ourselves. It just doesn’t work, Ofir.

Ofir Paldi: I always said another factor, even if you change someone else … Tomorrow, you will meet another person, and not him. So, what, you will go day by day and change everyone that you’re meeting with? No? You need to change yourself and see what you can do differently in the same situation with a different person, or with the same person.

Ray Zinn: We seem to get some kind of enjoyment by finding the mistakes of other people. We just get some kind of a thrill.

If you look at the politicians, they ridicule their opponents. I think that’s the problem.

I don’t know how it is in your debriefings in the Air Force, but those pilots that are just hoping that somebody made a bigger mistake than they did, they compare themselves. Oh, you know, you’re not so good. You do this, you do that. I think finger pointing, when you point your finger, you have one pointing toward the person, but you’ve got three pointing back at yourself.

Ofir Paldi: Exactly. We always say, and that’s why I said before, we are learning from mistakes, and we are learning what we could have done better, what I could have done better. You will never see someone pointing the finger at someone else.

Ray Zinn: That’s exactly-

Ofir Paldi: It’s come to the opposite side, which is pretty funny. You can see a few people sitting together, debriefing together, and fighting each other because each one of them is sure that he did the mistake.

Ray Zinn: I will tell you, my experience is that people who tend to point their finger at other people are the ones that are making the most mistakes that they won’t admit.

Ofir Paldi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ray Zinn: That’s my experience.

Ofir Paldi: Yeah, I totally agree, totally agree.

Ray Zinn: So, what we’ve got to do is we have to stop the finger pointing, don’t you think, Ofir?

Ofir Paldi: I think that’s the basic of every culture, of every healthy culture in an organization. You need to make sure that you’re looking at yourself and what you can do better next time.

There is another value that we’re using in order to implement it. So, I think that most organizations stop to learn when something big and bad happens. We lost a deal, we had a big complaint, whatever. When they do it, it’s usually a long and complicated process of learning.

We believe that in order to create the continuous improvement culture, you need to have a learning routine, which means that you have understood what is the business results, the KPI that you want to improve? Then, to understand what is the process that influences it, then to debrief it every time.

I will give you an example. We always talk about flights, and we say we debrief every flight. If you’re a salesperson, you can’t say, okay, I will debrief every time I will lose a deal, or a big customer. No. Every meeting, right a short debrief with your one or two lessons. Okay, if your customer service, every engagement, write a short debrief. If you’re an R&D team, every sprint, every major issue, write a debrief. Don’t wait only for bad things to happen.

Ray Zinn: You know, changing the subject just a little, I have six married grandchildren, and what I tell them is, don’t worry what kind of spouse you’re going to have, you worry about what kind of spouse you’re going to be. In other words, you worry about you, you don’t worry about them.

Ofir Paldi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ray Zinn: The same thing in business. If you’re saying I’m not going to worry about my team, I’m going to worry about myself and how I am helping my team. If everybody did that, then you would have a stronger team rather than trying to say, well, I wish so-and-so would do more to pull their own weight, or why don’t they get their project out on time? They keep looking at others rather than themselves.

It works in marriage the same way, Ofir. If you worry about what kind of a spouse you’re going to be as opposed to what kind of spouse your wife or your other spouse is going to be, then you’re more likely to be a better person with continuous improvement.

Ofir Paldi: I agree.

One of the things that we measure, and we see it in a lot of things, is actually what kind of cultural things are changing? We work with hundreds of teams. We see, actually, they’re saying that collaboration, incorporation in team is improving from this kind of culture. We actually ask them how it influences their day-to-day life, not their work life, and about 65% of them say that it influenced and changing something in their personal life.

To become a continuous improvement person, some kind of learning machine, it’s something that goes with you and becomes part of you.

Ray Zinn: You know, that’s so important, Ofir. I appreciate you joining me on this podcast today. Getting us to looking in the mirror rather than look around the mirror is really what you’re focused on. Continuous improvement by looking at the mirror rather than around the mirror.

That’s what we want to leave our listeners with today. Quit looking around the mirror, look in the mirror, and then you’ll see the person you need to change. You’re not going to see that person around the mirror, you’re only going to see them in the mirror.

Thank you so much, Ofir, for joining us today on this podcast. It’s so important to have people like yourself, who have learned life’s lessons and has had real time experience in continuous improvement. That’s what this podcast is all about. You can’t get continuous improvement if you’re looking around the mirror.

Is that a fair thing to say, Ofir?

Ofir Paldi: Yeah, that’s a great way to conclude it.

Ray Zinn: Look forward to being with you again some time.

This is a Tough Things First podcast, one that we welcome people to come in and ask questions, and give us your opinion of how you see things, give us ideas of what kind of podcast you would like us to create.

You can get my book, Tough Things First, from your local retailer, book retailer, reseller. It’s on Amazon. Also, my new book, Zen of Zen. We invite you to look at that new book, which is all about life’s lessons and what you can learn from life, how you can get continuous improvement in your life.

Again, thanks for joining us and we look forward to seeing you next week.

Comment (1)

  1. Gene Madison 1 month ago

    Excellent!!

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