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Word On The Street

Pilot Program

Need a lift? Join the military.

By Cynthia E. Griffin

In the heat of battle, you process hundreds of facts and make split-second decisions. What are you--a jet jockey or an earthbound entrepreneur?

Both, says Jim Murphy, president of Atlanta-based Afterburner Seminars. Borrowing techniques from his seven-year career as a fighter pilot, Murphy has created a program that trains businesspeople to think like fighter pilots.

Afterburner instructors "are all top military pilots; some are Desert Storm medal recipients," says Murphy, 33, who launched Afterburner when he realized the parallels between fighter pilots and businesspeople. "[Like entrepreneurs,] fighter pilots have to make hundreds of decisions in a matter of minutes, so we get good at prioritizing."

Seminar participants do, too. They learn mission planning, teamwork and debriefing, a blameless process where the goal is to rectify mistakes. "Businesspeople are great at setting goals but don't [always reach them]," Murphy says. "Where small-business owners drop the ball is they never stop to look at why they didn't make the goal."

Afterburner presents half-day seminars for groups of 15 to 1,000. A more intense course, geared toward two to four individuals who learn the concepts in the cockpit of a plane over two days, targets business owners and teaches them how to become a task manager instead of a taskmaster.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Word On The Street.

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