Sunday, April 26, 2009


In the midst of my morning sickness, I got a lot of reading done. One of the best books I read was Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He spent a large portion of his book talking about cultural differences and how they can affect performance. One example was the hierarchical culture of Korean flight crews and how that led to high crash statistics. Cultures (such as Korea's) with high power differential index (PDI) scores cause flight crews to be much less willing to speak directly to the airplane captain in any way that might be perceived as critical.

What's the point of a flight crew that can't use their own judgment and experience? Hierarchies are important for getting final decisions made, but they are counterproductive when the people at the top do not receive important input from their underlings, either because they refuse to listen to it or because the underlings do not feel they can say what they think. You might as well just have one pilot and some robots in such a situation.

Interesting, four of the five countries with the lowest power differential indices are primarily immigrant countries: the United States of America, Australia, South Africa, and Canada. For some reason, Ireland was also in the top five.

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