How to Recover from Disaster

How to Recover from Disaster

How does a company, like United Airlines, recover from a public failure?

In an article from 2006, Embracing Change as Opportunity, Richard Belluzzo outlines four key principles that are still relevant to the situation United finds itself in today.

The first principle is a tough one: “Don’t be a Victim.” The CEO of United Airlines made this mistake when he gave his initial response. I can understand how this could happen; it’s his company and he has faith in his employees to do the right thing. Nevertheless, he used the word “belligerent” to explain the passenger’s behavior. When watching the video of the passenger being dragged down the aisle, though, no one sees the airline as the victim. In the face of trouble, a company must avoid blaming and move to the other principles.

The next two principles are very similar: “Embrace Change Because It Creates Opportunity” and “Enjoy the Opportunity to Reinvent Yourself.” Take Apple, for example. Since its inception in 1976, it has had its share of failures and mistakes. When negative incidents happen, companies can either become defensive and stick to “business as usual,” or change. Apple has continued to move forward despite its failures, and in March of this year, CNN Money reported it to be worth $750 billion! United Airlines must make the same choice. And if the company chooses to follow the next and last principle, it can position itself to win back customers – and even grow.

The last principle is for a company to “Be Willing to Try Something New.” Already, the CEO of United told congress that the company would increase to $10,000 the amount it’s willing to pay customers who give up their seats. Will that be enough to win people back? According to the same article, Southwest has vowed to join JetBlue and stop overbooking flights. Now that’s a bold move! United Airlines will need to think creatively and try new ways of doing business.

Don’t let failure ground your flight! We can’t predict or choose our missteps. However, we can choose how we will respond. Having the mindset that Belluzzo highlights will help us get flying again. And it might even inspire us to soar!

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