How F.A.R. Will You Go? 

Are you…Flexible? Adaptable? Resilient?
Eleven years ago, as the Administrator of Training and Development at the Delaware River Port Authority, I gave the opening keynote at the annual conference of the Eastern States Transportation Network. 

The Network is comprised of people responsible for the operation, maintenance, and security, of highways, bridges, trains, and tunnels from Maine to Florida. The impact of 9/11 was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and there were many police and security folks in the audience.

At the conference, I spoke about the lessons learned from the experience of the first responders, and the people inside the buildings that day:

> How the knowledge and understanding each person had up to that moment was not necessarily sufficient for responding to the unexpected action that occurred. 

> How information, when it became available, was often incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading, because of the limited perspectives of people in their places, in the moment. 

> How in complex situations, life or death literally depends on how people make sense of their rapidly evolving experience together in the moment.



My conclusion was that there were several skills we need and must use in the face of unexpected events and disruptive experiences:

> We must be willing and able to change our intention and action rapidly in the face of significantly changed circumstances around us.

> We must know multiple ways and paths to (hopefully) lead us towards our goals.

> We must have the capacity to learn, understand, and adapt rapidly.

> Finally, we must be able to calmly and efficiently negotiate meaning and purpose with others. 
The greater our capacities in these areas, the better our chances of surviving. . . And thriving.

As W. Edwards Deming put it (in his usual dry witty away): 

“Learning is optional. Survival is optional.”
Collective sense-making, exploration of promising options, and continuous learning and adaptation, is the best we can do as we act into the complexities of the unknown future.

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