“Groundhog Day” and the ICAS Safety Initiative

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Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies.  Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies.  Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies. 

If you haven’t seen the movie, Bill Murray plays a television meteorologist covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But, in the days following Groundhog Day, he awakes each morning only to find that it is yet again Groundhog Day. Stuck in this never-ending rut, Murray comically tries a myriad of tactics to escape his fate, but each day he is forced to live the same day – Groundhog Day — over and over again.

Though it may be difficult to believe, the monotony of the film is what I enjoy the most because of how well I can relate to it. Just as Murray awakes each day to report on the presence of a groundhog’s shadow, I awake each day to promote and increase the level of safety within the air show industry. While I will contend that I have the more difficult, enjoyable and meaningful job, it is easy to draw parallels between the two.

For the past five years, my principle message could be boiled down to: “be professionally safe.”  I’ve worked closely with dozens of members to deliver that same fundamental message using many different tools: the ICAS Operations Bulletins (Ops Bull) and Fast Facts email newsletters, magazine articles, ICAS Convention education sessions, ICAS Academy events, regional conferences, and several different committees and working groups. My challenge, like Murray’s, is to translate that basic idea into something practical and relevant that will “stick with” its intended recipients, and leave a noticeable and lasting impact. 

Fortunately for both Bill Murray and myself, we are given the gift (or curse, depending on whom you ask) of being able to change up and re-deliver a familiar message but in a new and different way. As anyone who has followed this column, read Ops Bull, or attended safety-related education sessions at the convention with regularity can attest, you will likely hear the same topics discussed across all of these outlets. But, as any marketing agent, teacher or publicist will tell you, the most effective way to ensure a tidbit of information is retained is through repetition.

Repetition is a tactic that we use frequently here at ICAS because we know that it works. Like Murray, sometimes our message is on point and well-articulated…and sometimes it is not. As an example, quite deliberately, during the summer months, we feature an article or two or three in our Ops Bull newsletters concerning the causes, hazards and ways to mitigate dehydration. And there are times when publishing an issue of Ops Bull with yet another article about dehydration feels a bit like we are stuck in Groundhog Day, repeating the same thing again and again.  However, this repetition — though at times tiresome — is critical to ensure that the information is retained. Experts on adult learning have reams of data to support this position. And our own experience reinforces it. Just as a sponge does not soak up the first few drops of water when held under a running faucet, it takes consistent exposure before absorption occurs.

The trick, of course, and one of my primary challenges as the ICAS “safety guy,” is finding the right balance: what to focus on, how frequently to repeat it, and how to change the method of delivery enough to ensure members read or listen to it one more time. It’s a challenge that I enjoy, and one that I’m not too proud to admit I occasionally misjudge.

In his endless broadcasts about Groundhog Day to the home television audience, Bill Murray was sometimes as articulate as Sir Laurence Olivier and as insightful as Walter Cronkite. At other times, not so much. I enjoy the challenge of managing the content that I deliver to ICAS members in a manner that is consistent yet relevant and helpful. I hope that you’ll tolerate my less-than-inspired moments, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before I have an opportunity to once again communicate the same message, but in a different way.  

Maybe you’ve heard: Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies. 

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Dan Hollowell
Dan Hollowell, ICAS Vice President, Safety and Operations. | Dan Hollowell joined the ICAS staff as the organization's new director of operations in July of 2008. A 2008 graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. in Aviation Management, Hollowell is a multi-engine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. He has also worked as an intern with the National Transportation Safety Board.