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Blue Threat: Why To Err is Inhuman

Richard Keltner

By Richard Keltner
Safety Specialist, Global Aerospace, Inc.

Tony Kern
1st Edition
256pp. $21.95 US
ISBN 978-0-9842063-0-8

You can’t fault me for being nervous. I’m providing commentary on a book written by Dr. Tony Kern. B-1 bomber Command Pilot, Chairman of the Air Force Human Factors Steering Group, past Director and Professor of Military History at the USAF Academy… Dr. Tony Kern. National Aviation Director for the U.S. Forest Service, interviewed by Dan Rather, recipient of the Flight Safety Foundation Distinguished Service Award for Aviation Leadership, one of the primary sparkplugs of the Bombardier Safety StandDown program. Come on. This Dr. Tony Kern, the CEO of Convergent Performance, a company dedicated to reducing human error in high risk environments.

But did he write a book about personal accountability that I would actually sit down and read? I’m a busy guy. Personal accountability AND Individual effort? That would have to be some kind of book for me to read it.

Well, I read it…twice. You should read it at least once. It is short; only 256 pages including the glossary and appendix. It will help you remember who is in control of your performance; however you might define that word.

Typical books about Human Factors are written for managers. Most of them are designed to help the boss understand how the folks in the trenches interact with their environments. Dr. Kern wrote a few books about that too including his Redefining Airmanship and the two book series that addresses Controlling Pilot Error. But Blue Threat is for everybody; whether you drive a forklift or a G-V. This isn’t another pilot training book.

Dr. Kern makes his intention clear. In his preface he writes that he will show us how to "….learn the right lessons from our mistakes." (My emphasis). Those mistakes are the Blue Threat. For those of you without military experience, Blue is the home team color during warfare exercises. Blue Threat is threat that comes from us. Dr. Kern uses the famous Pogo quote, "We have met the enemy and it is us," to introduce that concept. Because "…errors rob profit and resources at every level…" He details the concept of Empowered Accountability as the primary weapon against the threat.

All right, this book is about identifying and dealing with the threats we pose to our own performance. But, don’t worry. This isn’t one of those touchy feely California Psycho-baloney books. There are no requirements for deep introspection – well, maybe some introspection in chapter nine but it’s good introspection. What you will find mostly are tools to track your hazards and quantify your risks. Strategies for incremental (read, "painless") performance improvement are provided. Need convincing?

Take one hour (come on, ONE hour) and read chapters Four (The Myth of Compliance), Seven (Common Enemies: Error Producing Conditions) and Eight (Blind Spots: Hazardous Attitudes and Mental Bias.) I almost hate to admit it but I’ve started impressing people (including my wife) with quotes from Chapter Four. Do you know the difference between "Red" and "Brown" rules? What’s your estimate of the percentage of high schoolers that "…agree that in the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating…?"

Conclusion. This is an important book about an important topic, "Me." It is doubtful that everyone will read it because…well, it doesn’t have a lot of pictures. It has some very good charts and illustrations, parables, war stories and proverbs but no pictures. It’s a book about change…the right kind of change. If you do read it, and take just some of it to heart, it will make you better at what you do. No matter what that might be.

You can order the book for $21.95 at Have fun. Stay safe and call me if you need me.

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