The NASA effect

From mid-January, James and I will again trade together, full-time. His contribution is to: (1) reduce mistakes made and (2) maintain our focus.

Of course, there is more to it than that. We each need to bring competency and knowledge. When that comes together, however, trading together really helps.


In the pilot world, crew resource management or CRM aims to reduce mistakes significantly. During the late 50’s too many Comet aircraft were crashing and too many of those were due to pilot (or crew) error.

NASA had a look and devised CRM; its success, throughout aviation’s history since then and the space program, was staggering. CRM is a method that prevents egotism.

The movie ‘Sully’ quietly shows CRM in operation. Each move by either the captain or the co-pilot is confirmed and checked by the other. It’s an accepted way in the aviation world.

So much so that it has made its way, under different names, into the hospital operating theatre.


Distractions affect performance on the job. In a recent essay, Dan Nixon of the Bank of England pointed to a mass of compelling evidence where constant interruptions accustom (us) to distraction, teaching us, in effect, to lose focus and seek diversions:

Conducting tasks while receiving e-mails and phone calls reduces IQ by about ten points relative to working in uninterrupted quiet.

That is equivalent to losing a night’s sleep and twice as debilitating as using marijuana.

By one estimate, Nixon says it takes nearly half an hour to recover focus entirely on the task at hand after an interruption.

The day-traders world (not as dramatic as aviation – our feet are on the ground for a start) very much demands our total attention.

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