Tony Kern, B.A, M.A., Ed.D., Command Pilot (USAF, Ret.)
Chief Learning Officer
My quest for understanding human performance began in tragedy, when two of my former students crashed a perfectly functioning B-1 Bomber into a ridgeline on a moonless night in 1992.
For the next several years, I studied and wrote tirelessly as a way to come to grips with where I might have had failed them. Ten years and three books later, I received a phone call from a senior military officer asking if I could help them with a human performance problem they were experiencing—and Convergent Performance was born.
I’m not a very smart guy, but I am a slow-and-steady learner. What I lack in innate intelligence is compensated for by an insatiable appetite to know why well-intended, well-trained people sometimes fail tragically, or never reach their full potential. I’ve written nearly 3,000 published pages on this topic, and feel that the more I learn, the less I know for sure. What I do know for certain is that we need a reawakening of the human spirit when it comes to personal accountability and responsibility for our own performance. Over the years, we have discovered several keys that make this awakening happen, and we seek to share them with you. It’s our passion, our mission, and our reason for being.
Reading Recommendations: The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations, by Dietrich Dörner; The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed our Minds, by Michael Lewis; The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.
Captain Chris Lutat, B.A., ATP (DA-20, MD-11)
Being a founding member of Convergent Performance has been one of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of my career in aviation.
Right from the founding of our Company in 2003, Convergent Performance has allowed me to pursue contemporary aviation issues alongside some of the best thinkers and support staff in the Aviation Safety community. And as a former Coast Guard aviator, I’ve always associated aviation with saving lives. At Convergent Performance, we don’t operate airplanes but we provide services that save lives—allowing me to combine two passions in the service of the broader aviation industry. I don’t know of any other company in our category that has as much experience or know-how when it comes to addressing the complexity of the human-machine relationship, or that does it with the same rigor.
Reading Recommendations: When I share literature recommendations with fellow professionals, always at the top of the list are two authors who have taught me much about the human-machine relationship: Gary Klein and Henry Petroski. Their rigorous exploration of contemporary safety issues is inspirational and instructional, and every edition that I own written by each of these researchers is full of highlights and notes written in the margin.
Kenneth D. Stahl, M.D., F.A.C.S.
President of Healthcare
I learned how to fly airplanes right along with learning how to do surgery, and these two parallel loves came together the day my three partners and I started Convergent Performance in the dining room of my house.
Although I’ve never flown for any of the flag carriers, I fly my own airplane for charity missions and medical transportation. I’ve spent about as much time in the cockpit as in the operating room, where I perform heart surgery and train residents to do procedures, as well as how to think about problem solving and avoiding errors.
Our work at Convergent Performance has made two of my career goals possible: I have taken the safety science from my Airline Transport Pilot certificate training right into the hospital to develop a mindset and training curriculum for healthcare providers to mitigate small mistakes before they end up as patient tragedies. I look back at the residents and medical students I have trained as force multipliers for my own surgical skills and error avoidance methods. I may never know who they help in their future careers, but I know they take my lessons along with them. The same is true for our work in aviation; while I don’t fly with most of the pilots I train, I know they hear my voice in the back of their heads as they make their own flight safety decisions.
Reading Recommendations: Two of my favorite authors are Laurence Gonzales and Malcolm Gladwell. They both encapsulate one of my favorite mental exercises, called “metacognition,” or thinking about the way we think about things. Gonzales’ book, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, is a must-read, and I’ve gifted it to my kids and everyone else who wants to avoid life threatening situations. Another of his great books is, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. Gladwell has numerous books that are great reads, but two lesser known books, David and Goliath, and What the Dog Saw, are particularly worthwhile.
Pat Daily, M.S.
“It’ll end up being more about the people than the tile or the foam.” I still remember those words from a mentor of mine. I was working for Honeywell at NASA’s Johnson Space Center when the Columbia disintegrated on reentry. He was right. In the aftermath of the tragedy, we learned more about the flawed decisions that cost America seven astronauts and a shuttle.
I’d been a test pilot in the USAF, an airline pilot, and an engineer—all fairly technical fields, but the words of my mentor echoed in my mind as I made the decision to quit a stable and satisfying career to found Convergent. It was time to turn my professional efforts to improving people’s performance, particularly in those endeavors where mistakes can easily cost lives.
Fifteen years later, in January of 2019, I retired from Convergent Performance and returned to my flight test roots.
Reading recommendations: Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, by Richard P. Feynman, and Tools Of Titans by Tim Ferriss are the books I’ve most frequently given as gifts. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl is profound and took the longest to read, as I would put it down for a week at a time while I thought about the content.
Doug Downey, B.S., MBA, Lt. Col. (USAF, Ret.)
As a human reliability company with unique strategies, Convergent Performance is more than a global leader of Human Factors research, education, and training for high-risk industries.
In simple terms, we enable individuals to self-identify personal limitations, errors, and untapped potential. Despite having a successful career in the Air Force—where I conducted high-risk activities daily—when I reflect on that time, I realize I could have been much better and achieved so much more. Not through extra effort, but through increased self-awareness of my personal error patterns and the potential I was leaving on the table each and every day.
Working at this incredible company motivates me to ensure our recipe for success is translated and delivered to every individual and organization in every high-risk industry where tolerances for error are small and overall collective potential can be vastly improved. Once these life skills are mastered, they easily translate to any job, and high performance becomes normalized in the form of safer operations and higher levels of compliance.
Reading Recommendations: Think, by Malcom Gladwell; Nuts, by Jackie and Kevin Freiberg; The Iliad, by Homer; Uncommon, by Tony Dungy.
Media Development Specialist
I believe that Convergent Performance offers innovative and dynamic solutions to all high-risk industries, and a unique synergistic partnership approach with all of our clients. We are not experts in what you do—you are the experts. However, with our actionable and engaging solutions, we can help to encourage a more professional environment at your company, where the employees are safer in everything they do. This, along with the team of people I work with every day, is what energizes me to continually strive for more.
Reading Recommendations: Reach for the Sky: The Story of Douglass Bader, by Paul Brickhill; Fate is the Hunter, by Ernest K. Gann.
Shae Comstock, B.A.
Director of Business Development
I feel privileged to work for a company that helps high-risk industries improve their culture by advancing individual performance and efficiency. The programs we offer not only help companies save time and money on insurance claims, but more importantly the work we do saves lives. I love having the opportunity to truly get to know the individuals that make each company we work with a safer, better place.
Reading Recommendation: Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge, by Daniel A. Sjursen.
Marcie Miller, A.A., B.A.
Director of Creative Services
Convergent Performance provides me the support and tools in my professional development as the Graphic Designer and more recently, the lead in creative services. Everyone has a niche in the company, but the owners and managers know it's our company as much as theirs. They care about us and help us to grow, strive to learn new skill sets, and appreciate us.
Reading recommendations: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas; Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank
Vanessa Shawver, Lt. Col.(USA/USAF, Ret.)
Director of Operations
What began as a simple intriguing job opportunity at Convergent Performance has now grown from mere work to a true passion. I believe deeply in our principles of integrity, self-improvement, accountability, and deliberate practice techniques to continually seek performance beyond our last personal best. I find improvement to be addictive, empowering, and absolutely contagious. I am proud to be part of a strong team of creative individuals who strive every day to find ideas and solutions that transcend the chains of mediocrity and challenge others to practice precision and picture perfection. Convergent is my family, and its foundational principles and ideas will continue to be a large part of who I am.
Reading Recommendations: Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath; The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield; Cradle to Cradle – Remaking the Way We Make Things, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.
Paul Miller, B.A.
Technical Writer/Editor, IT Manager
Convergent Performance provides me the opportunity to work in a dynamic and ever-changing small business environment, where one moment I can be editing an emergency procedure checklist, the next I’m reviewing cutting-edge training videos, and then I’m troubleshooting a computer issue or researching the latest cyber threat. More importantly, I work at Convergent Performance because I believe that the content we offer makes people safer and even saves lives.
Reading Recommendations: The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod; The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell.
I wear many hats at Convergent Performance (as all of us do), but I especially like to crunch numbers—and there are a lot of numbers to crunch here! As the primary administrator, I get to play a vital role keeping the small business machine running: answering phones, ordering office supplies, keeping the company calendar, researching financial and tax issues, verifying payroll, and so much more. My favorite part of the job is saving the company money. What we do is important, because by putting together the right tools and the right people, we help organizations in many industries develop safer work environments. Our end goal is to save lives, and by helping Convergent Performance be successful, I have a small part in that.
Reading Recommendations: Churchill: Walking with Destiny, by Andrew Roberts; Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.
Certified Instructor and QA SME
I grew up in Montana near an Air Force base, and loved to watch the F106 fighters flying around. My 5th grade teacher warned me: “Darryl, look up here, you won’t make a living looking out the window at airplanes!” Boy, was she wrong—I was a military, FAA, and contract air traffic controller for 38 years. I have spent my life in military and civilian aviation pursuits: ATC, unmanned systems, and instruction. Convergent performance allows me to realize my true passion: being on the podium and training others to achieve their potential.
Reading Recommendations: An Army at Dawn, by Rick Atkinson; A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin; and The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, by Nathaniel Philbrick.
Doug Pratt, B.S., Lt. Col. (USAF, Ret.)
Convergent Performance challenges me to understand myself better, realize where my weak points are, and give my best every time I step in the cockpit. It creates a deeper sense of humility about my own shortcomings, and how to best mitigate them. Every day that I fly I wonder, “Will today be the day that I lose the engine, or hit a flock of birds, or have the captain with the heart attack? Am I ready?” I think it is vital that as aviators we don’t let our guard down both professionally and personally.
Reading Recommendations: David and Goliath and Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell; 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan Peterson.
Craig L. Prichard, B.S., MBA, Lt. Col.(USAF, Ret), CFII
Certified Instructor and QA SME
Convergent Performance has allowed me to explore new ways to manage and mitigate risk, not only in a professional capacity, but in my personal life as well. Having the opportunity to go out amongst aviation enthusiasts and interact with mechanics, pilots, and management personnel has expanded my appreciation and respect for this dynamic profession. Finding ways to enhance individual, group, social/cultural behavior is an incredible challenge and one that brings immense satisfaction when genuinely and passionately pursued.
Reading Recommendations: The Moral Compass, by William J. Bennet; 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan Peterson.
Jim Bridwell A.A., B.A., ATP (727, 737, Be1900, SW4)
Certified Instructor and QA SME
Working for Convergent Performance is a great way to keep my mind active, and it allows me to give back to the aviation industry as a human factors instructor. Human factors training is constantly evolving, and I feel privileged to contribute to its growth and have an impact on improving aviation safety. Every time I teach, I marvel at the ways our curriculum both contributes to industry safety, while also showing people their personal growth potential, both on and off the job. I wish I had been exposed to this type of training early in my own career.
Reading Recommendations: Band of Brothers, by Ernest K. Gann (Not the D-day story); Captain Cook in Alaska and the North Pacific, by James K. Barnett; The Art of War, by Sun Tzu; Lifetime Plan for Success, by Dale Carnegie.