A Google exec shares how researching plane crashes has helped him understand failure

Hiroshi Lockheimer GoogleHiroshi LockheimerIt’s all about understanding failure, says Google’s SVP of platforms and ecosystems Hiroshi Lockheimer.

Google’s SVP of platforms and ecosystems Hiroshi Lockheimer told Business Insider he has a “morbid” hobby.

He avidly reads books and articles on plane crashes.

“Aeroplane crashes are an interesting study and exercise in learning how failures happen,” he told Business Insider.

Perhaps the greatest insight he’s gained: “It’s usually not one cause.”

Though there’s usually a huge human element to plane crashes, Lockheimer said he’s found that many failures — especially catastrophic ones — cannot truly be attributed to a single circumstance, person, or error.

Rather, in the case of most plane crashes, he said that disasters tend to happen when a series of different mistakes and circumstances happen to collide.

Lockheimer said his views on failure have prompted him to be as accessible as possible as a leader.

By advocating transparency and emphasising communication with the people on his team, Lockheimer said he can stay off potential crises that can snowball into full-fledged disasters.

“Just because I’m a leader doesn’t mean I can’t share the fact I’m feeling vulnerable or that I’m worried about something,” he said.

Lockheimer said he has an open-door policy with his team.

“You hear about times when, maybe because of the way an organisation was set up, someone was worried about something, but they were afraid of looking bad so they didn’t want to speak up,” he said. “I want them to be honest with me and not worry about, ‘Oh this is my boss’ or ‘my boss’s boss’ or whatever. I want frank feedback.”

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