Blinding Flash of the Obvious, One Day Late

How companies can avoid mistakes like the Air Force One photo op.

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GL Hoffman
Yesterday's Air Force One flight over New York City illustrates several points.

“The FAA was told about the flight and approved it!!” was a sorry answer and excuse. Point is, if you are in a position of authority or responsibility, don’t throw anyone--and certainly not unnamed bureaucracies--under the bus. We expect better from our leaders. But there's more.

Evidently, many governmental departments “coordinated” on this photo-op flight over Manhattan. The circulated memo was, I'll bet, innocent enough, like all these kind of memos. It likely read something like: “The Air Force will be taking photos of the new Air Force One as it majestically flies over Manhattan on a beautiful spring day, showcasing the world’s most recognizable airplane against the backdrop of the world’s most recognizable city.” Or some such language. I bet hundreds of people read this memo in the days before the flight. You understand that the above account is fictional, but I am betting it is eerily close to the original. Yet not one person said….”Hmmm, let’s rethink this.”

These things happen every day in business and in government. Something apparently innocent is undertaken that goes dramatically wrong and afterwards, causes much finger-pointing at those who were responsible. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. They should have known.

Maybe so. Here’s the best way to ensure you don’t experience something similar in your organization.

Encourage and ensure “engagement” from your workforce. Reward those who think so clearly about your company, its products, and stakeholders, that they make sense out of disparate connections. It’s not “thinking outside of the box,” it’s more like thinking around corners.

This is a skill that takes nourishment, so that when something like the flight over Manhattan is presented, at least one person has the confidence to step up, and say: “Hold on a moment here.”

Even better are those leaders who listen to such people.

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at or at