I don’t tend to feel I can write much here about the other side of what I’ve been doing these past nine years – our crisis simulation work. But here’s a little flight of fancy into what simulating social media crises has to do with planes. Or something.

For me, aviation and Social Simulator will always go together.

Our first commercial exercise eight years ago was at a major London airport with 747s trundling past the window. Since then we’ve worked for the people who make planes, the airlines that fly them and the airports they fly to around the world. The annals of crisis communication and social customer care theory are packed with aviation examples.

It’s in the memories of flights to places I probably wouldn’t have seen and experiences I wouldn’t have had. Whale watching in British Columbia. Glaciers in Alaska. Sundown cocktails in Singapore. Giraffe watching in Nairobi. Ramadan heat in Dubai. Ice cream in Milan. Memorable trips with colleagues.

Somehow it feels even more profoundly connected in terms of the Simulator and exercising itself. Our roleplay cockpit full of intimidating switches and robo-tweeting autopilot. The briefings and debriefs, and scripts like flight plans we try to but don’t always quite follow. The frisson and elegance and G-forces of an exercise taking off. Island-hopping ninety-minute workshops in a metaphorical Cessna; A380 superjumbo three-day exercises with a crew of ten roleplayers dishing out the drinks in the cabin.

There’s sometimes tedious prep work and hanging around, fishing laptops in and out of bags at security scanners, the memorable and sometimes awkward passengers who fly on our exercises, voluntarily locked in to an uncomfortable, sometimes white-knuckle ride with us for three hours or more.

Unlike a normal digital product, the scope to fix things while airborne is limited. We have checklists and safety features and a seasoned crew on the flight deck, but there’s always the risk of something going dramatically – but thankfully never fatally – wrong.

Here’s to more (carbon offset) takeoffs and landings. It’s been a pleasant flight so far.

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