Breakthrough thinking in turbulence

Breakthrough thinking in turbulence

Breakthrough thinking in turbulence

No pilot is trained to fly only in fair weather. No pilot dreams of flying without encountering turbulence sometimes. A life without challenges is impossible. There are things you learn in turbulence that fair weather can never teach you. Turbulence has its opportunities and benefits. Turbulence is caused by a sudden and sometimes violent change in the speed or direction of the wind.

Sometimes the turbulence can be severe or slight, but whatever its tone, a good pilot will survive it. Whatever happens, if you did your flight checks and you know what you are doing, you are confident that you will sail through the storm. Tough times are not the times to give up, forget your instruments, throw tantrums, think like a victim and lose your mind. Turbulent times are terrible times to stop trying and turn into a victim.

In severe turbulence, the aircraft may fail to respond to all the on-board controls. This is where experience and mental fortitude kicks in. What worked in the past will not work all the time. Yesterday is a poor predictor of future success. A good pilot manages the situation as it is prevailing, not as he wishes it could be. The luxury of wishful thinking is for those who are not facing real danger. See things as they are, not as you wish them to be. It is when the turbulence is greatest that the best of captains rise to the occasion and take the helm. Mastery is crafted in crucibles of turbulence.

It is when things are worst that you must not quit and resign to despair and despondency. Each season you face is pregnant with its unique set of opportunities and this moment is not an exception.

Turbulence is a test of character, competence and commitment. It tests the pedigree of a captain and his crew. This is because in life you never fly alone. Many people want change without what it entails. There is no greatness at bargain prices. Whatever happens, you never have the luxury of going to sleep during turbulence. Wake up to strategic reality. Put on your strategic thinking cap. Strategy is not a document, but a game plan. Review the sensitivity of your organisation to the winds you are facing. Stay alert, reflect often and keep thinking. Respond to the current waves, but keep your strategic focus.

You have to see beyond the clouds of despair because above those heavy clouds, the sun is shining. The turbulence shall soon pass and you do not have the luxury to play without a strategy when it matters most. You have got to gave a game plan in order to win any game. Choose where you will play to win, and how you will win. Be clear about your core, stimulate that core and be ready to play. Do not box the wind because it has its own mind and it shall pass. Think about the model you will use to play within a changing field and what forces are likely to disrupt you.

In turbulence, think seriously about your mobilisation strategy. Change will always come and your response to change is your mobilisation effort. Mobilisation allows you to clarify what is happening, how it affects you and how you will marshal your team and partners to work together to outlive the turbulence.

Mobilisation, done well, allows you to strengthen your core, focus your energy, still your nerves and play to win. Mobilise early and keep up the effort throughout the storm. Mobilisation spells out all the key aspects of change. It is your own answer to the what, who, when, why and how of any change and turbulence. Mere hope without any accompanying mobilisation leaves you vulnerable, bitter and weak.

Start your mobilisation early and the turbulence you face will strengthen you, instead of killing you. If you ever faint in the day of battle, you had little strength. Strengthen your fact-base and do not only listen to the prophets of doom because their gloomy forecasts can be depressing. Do not exclusively listen to the apostles that see, hear and say no evil. Read the situation and make up your own mind. Be willing to look at the brutal facts and not lose hope that you will prevail in time.

Turbulence amplifies risk and unfortunately, the option of a sudden landing because of turbulence is not always available. Aimless running amplifies your danger and increases your risk. This is why safety officers advise that during a fire, you should walk and not run. Soldiers advise that during turbulence and when visibility is low, do not shoot on automatic. Knee-jerk strategies could lead to your own amputation.

Turbulence does not mean that you should give up and that your journey has come to its sudden end. It is part of the vicissitudes of the journey. While turbulence brings risk, it is also an opportunity to propel forward. It is an opportunity to get fit faster, prune what no longer serves you and strengthen your team, while sharpening your strategic focus. Stop crying, start thinking and stick to the knitting until the deal is done. Identify the critical decisions that you have to make and take action. Turbulence abhors indecision. You cannot wait for situations to decide themselves while you resign to the infirm hand of fate. Wait and see is not a strategy if you do not have your own game plan.

Closing and going for a long holiday does not make that holiday worthwhile. Going elsewhere fast may not always be an option because in every place, there will always be a turbulence movie available for rent or showing in the neighbourhood soon. Test your structures to see if they can weather the storm. If they cannot, it is time to change, reduce complexity and remove the excess dross. Clarify roles and processes. Whatever happens, decide to make the most of any crisis and moment of turbulence. A turbulent moment is too precious to waste.

Turbulence is real and make no mistake, it affects people seriously and differently. Nevertheless, meeting turbulence does not always spell doom and gloom. Someone once said we may all be in the hole but some of us are looking at the stars. It is not what happens that matters the most but the choices you make. The sky is not yet falling. Turbulence comes and it is not your fault. It frustrates, that is your choice. Just fasten your seat-belt, keep hope alive and realise that jumping off now is not an option. Keep sight of the big idea and goal. Retrace your pathway to your strategic trajectory. In every situation, options will always be there. Strategy is about evaluating your options and choosing where you will place your big bets and make your big moves. The questions that you ask determine the actions that you will take. What load do you need to lighten? Excess baggage should never be carried to the future.

Whatever you carry up the mountain determines how the climb will go. Carrying unnecessary baggage increases your personal liability. How will you refill the tank? You cannot run on empty forever. You need to build new capacity to attack bigger opportunities and play at a different stage. You do not have the luxury to be left behind when the train pulls off the station. The time of turbulence is time to overtake the timid and to pass the slow with caution. Extend the lead and think deep into the future. Play to win not just to play. Keep doing what you know best and soon the fog will clear.

Think clearly

It is normal to panic and to hear alarm bells ring. However it is important in the midst of any storm to think clearly and see beyond the dust of the storm. Think with your mind and not with your feet, or any other part of your being that is not designed for strategic thought. Watch closely the developments but develop your own thesis of the situation and initiate your mobilisation efforts early. Avoid the thinking bias brought by history, people and noise. Prepare for big and bold moves and determine to be a game changer.

Professor Jim Collins wrote an inspiring book that he entitled: “How the Mighty Fall — and Why Some Companies Never Give In.” In this book he outlines five stages that organisations go through in their fall. The Stages are: Stage 1: Hubris born out of success. Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of more. Stage 3: Denial of risk or peril. Stage 4: Grasping for salvation. Stage 5: Capitulation to irrelevance or death.

One could look at these stages as diseases. Turbulence is not the disease, it just amplifies the symptoms. Moments of turbulences are opportunities for reflection and clarifying thinking and the essence of things. Looking at these Collins stages reflect on which of these symptoms you may be exhibiting.

Past success that is not build on fundamentals is just self-delusion. It is important to face the brutal facts and take the hard decisions. You cannot move forward burdened by hubris. Humility is the courage to face the brutal realities and in need to press the reset button. Keeping face is not facing facts. Clarify your strategy and shift resources to the things that matter most and the stakeholders that matter most to you. You have to choose where to play and how to win. Baseless ego trips just amplify the risk and danger. Work on the core and develop the core. Get fit faster and drive out costs that do not help you build your value proposition.

Lighten the load

Carrying excess baggage is a huge tax on the future. Discipline is a core element of success in and after turbulence. Pursuing more at all costs is a huge risk. Times of turbulence are an opportunity for self-examination and revisiting the traditional deadly vices and how these may have afflicted us. These vices are Gula (gluttony), Luxuria (lust), Avaritia (avarice/greed), Superbia (pride, hubris), Tristitia (sorrow/despair/despondency), Ira (wrath), Vanagloria (vainglory), and Acedia (sloth).

Committed to your greatness.


Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and executive coach. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634. His website is:

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