In the wake of marking yet another anniversary of September 11, 2001 , and as we follow the  post-Arab Spring developments around the globe, we are provided with yet another opportunity to contemplate what lessons we learned from 9/11 and how those lessons might apply to our everyday lives in the here and now.

One place those lessons can be applied is our day-to-day work environment.  The following are some examples:

  1. We are all in this together – More than anything, the events of September 11th, 2001, re-awakened us to a sense of community.  Though thousands of miles away, people across Idaho shared a collective need to reach out to loved ones and be reassured of their welfare as we reminded ourselves how important those people are in our lives.
    • Likewise, at work, we need to remember how each member of our workplace family contributes to our individual and team success. Take time to reach out to your co-workers and let them know just how important they are.
  2. Cooperation – Instantly, the people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA that fateful day fell in together to help one another and minimize, to the extent possible, the damage.  First Responders eventually took charge of the situation, but the instant reaction of those in the midst of the falling debris and ash-darkened skies was to look around them and see what they could do to help their fellow humans.  The brave folks aboard Flight 93 epitomized that collaborative response.
    • Cooperation is key to a healthy, productive workplace.  In addition to telling co-workers that they are valued, show them that value by looking out for their welfare along with your own. Look around, assess the work environment daily.  What can you do to advance the welfare of the organization and the everyday people that embody that organization?
  3. Communicate – In the aftermath of 9/11 it became clear that the effectiveness of the many emergency response agencies that responded to the unfolding events was hampered by the lack of inter-agency communications. While each agency was well-equipped to respond from the context of its unique training, their ability to marshal their collective effectiveness was thwarted by a communications divide that prevented each agency from benefiting from the perspective and on-the-ground experience of the other agencies.
    • Communication is essential to an organization’s ability to quickly and effectively respond to day-to-day issues that may arise, whether regarding internal operations or external relationships.  Regular inter-department communication helps facilitate a “we’re all in this together” mindset, and makes an organization more nimble and accurate in its responses to unforeseen events.
  4. Appreciate Diversity – Dare I say it? The seeds of 9/11 were sown in our country’s perceived intolerance for other world views and lack of respect for divergent cultures while, in turn, the Muslim extremists behind the 9/11 attacks took their intolerance toward our world view and culture to the extreme.  For many of us, 9/11 was a huge “wake up call” in terms of beginning to comprehend how much misunderstanding exists between our culture and that of those who have become willing foot soldiers for al Qaeda.  All the security measures in the world won’t bridge that gap.
    • Workplace diversity is a popular buzz term in today’s business environment that often ends up sounding like just so much political correctness. But whether you view the term through the lens of racial or gender diversity, or through the much broader lens of acknowledging that our personal way of doing things is not the only way, the truth is the more diverse our workforce, the more perspectives we will be able to call on when trying to remain competitive and relevant in a changing landscape.  The days of being able to succeed by simply selling our product or services to others who look, act and have the same beliefs as us are fading fast, as the world we live and do business in becomes increasingly smaller.
  5. Expect the Unexpected – Need I say more?
    • Recognizing, at a cellular level in your company, that change is inevitable is key to being able to respond to that change.  When we become too invested in “business as usual” we limit our ability to be open to new ideas and the people who have them, and we limit our company’s potential to grow and evolve.


Molly O’Leary represents business and telecommunications clients throughout Idaho, and is the Managing Principal of BizCounselor@Law, PLLC.  In addition, she is a Past President of the Idaho State Bar and a current member of the Statewide Advisory Counsel for the Idaho Small Business Development Center. You may follow her on Twitter: @BizCounselor.

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