The Strategy Lesson of 9-11

For me, 9-11 started like many other mornings. There was the usual mad dash to the airport to catch my flight to New York. I had been working a lot in New York and I knew the routine. I had a very busy day planned so I was anxious to get to LaGuardia and get started.

As we approached the city, the normal announcements were made that we had been cleared to land and we started our final approach. Suddenly we heard the engines grow loud as they strained to lift us back into the sky. Then the captain came on the loudspeaker and said we have been diverted to Boston. He said there had been a plane crash and LaGuardia was closed. They suspected sabotage. At that point one plane had hit the tower and the plane flying towards the second tower was behind us, but we had no knowledge of what was going on.

We headed for Boston. A few minutes later the captain came back on the PA system and said he made an executive decision to go to Providence instead. We still had no idea what was going on. When we got to Providence, it was a zoo. I looked quickly for a cab or any way to get out of there and in to NY for my meetings. All phones were down, I could not call anyone. At that point the second plane had hit the second tower.

Another stranded passenger and I shared a cab that took us to Greenwich. That was as far as the cab company would take us. We stayed glued to the radio, hanging on every word, for more than three hours. Finally we reached Greenwich and I was able to contact my family. They had no idea whether my plane had been one of the hijacked planes or not. I was so happy to talk to my husband.

My client sent a car to bring me in to the Bronx. What a day it was. We were supposed to be closing the sale of the company to the next generation of partners on Sept 12. They decided to go forward with the sale but of course the celebration in NYC was canceled.

I kept my original schedule to leave NYC on Sept 13. All flights had been cancelled, but finally they let my flight leave. Before taking off, they evacuated us twice out of the terminal due to bomb scares. My flight finally took off with 3 passengers and the crew. It was the first plane out of LaGuardia after 9-11. They let one other flight leave that night and then shut down the airport again for several days. My client who went to the airport with me did not get out of NYC for four more days.

The events of that terrible day will live with me for the rest of my life and my thoughts and prayers are with those that were not as fortunate as I. Now after 10 years have passed, I still feel the combination of fear and anger that I felt that day but I have also tried to learn the lessons that the day taught.

That day the terrorists had a carefully devised strategy to attack us in a new and different way, a way that we were not prepared to deal with. The innovation in their strategy provided them the ability to be successful in their evil plan.

That gut retching day taught me the power of innovation better than any book could ever do and in a way I will never forget: Innovation can be applied successfully whether for good or for evil.

Dr. Sarah Layton

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Posted by Dr. Sarah Layton in Governance, Organizational Strategy on September 11, 2011.

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