Imperturbable Frank Wild checks out the wreckage of the Endurance – the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – 1915/1916.
From whence cometh your decision-making input
When the Endurance finally broke up completely, the men heaved a collective sigh of relief. The tense wait was over, the die had been cast and they set off across the ice-pack in the Weddell Sea, dragging two life-boats. The journey is one of the most amazing stories of perseverance skill and good fortune in an era in which some extraordinary people had some breath-taking adventures.
For part of the journey they camped on an ice flow being carried by the current towards open water. Life on an iceberg is fraught. One night the flow broke in half, dumping one unfortunate member of the team into the water, in his sleeping bag. He was hauled out, chilled and stirred. And shaken!
This happened to men who were watching their progress with navigation instruments. They watched land in the distance slipping by. They kept an eye on the state of the flow on which they camped. How are you charting your progress? And how are you using the information you collect? Here is a comic sequence I drew about trends and drivers using Sketch Master on my smartphone.
Most journeys and many businesses start with a good idea.
A good idea may be enough. But the risks may be high. Perhaps it is a really good idea. Maybe you have excellent skills and the perfect window of opportunity. But the risks are high.
To start implementing the idea many people first check where they are. This is a good approach. If you start your journey without knowing where you are, how are you ever going to get to where you want to go?
How do you characterise your position? Some businesses, filled with confidence step off on their good idea simply with a good sense of where they are. Core Competencies and Value Chain Analysis speak to this approach to strategy. But more danger lurks. Out there!!! Frank Wild saw a leopard seal on a flow they had just left. He shot it and collected more food for the expedition.
And here is the idea. Take a good look around.
There are many excellent dialogue tools for doing this. STEEPLE (Social, Technology, Economics, Environment, Politics, Legal and Ethics) is a good one. Discussing ‘Frames of Reference’ is another. But how do you make sense of the information you have collected? It is time to look a little deeper. You can synthesis independent facts to identify large-scale movements. Trends!
Here is our guy studying trends. He is looking a little deeper at the facts. OK here we leave the Antarctic and enter the metaphor here.
But what about looking even deeper? What if you were to delve down into the trends to try to establish what is making them happen. Ask yourself “why is this happening?” Here is a deep dive to find out what is driving the trends. And I know Schackleton never did this. But he did navigate across 800 miles of Southern Ocean in a lifeboat using a Thomas Mercer chronometer and taking intermittent star-shots with a sextant. So he knew a thing or two about reading signs trends and drivers.
So which trends are you going to use as you begin to chart your course?
Why not use all of the above? Trends, drivers and all the supporting information.
Define your good idea. Support it with a purpose and a vision statement. Establish your current situation. Who are you and what is important to you and what context do you find yourself in right now? Then take a look around. Collect and collate as much as you can about the environment in which you find yourself operating. And then sift through the information to define the trends affecting your world. And then dig down into what is driving those trends. Define what is driving your experience.
And once you have the drivers, you can pick two high impact drivers, define the polar opposites for each and plot them against each other. Classic Scenario Planning! When Shackleton made it across South Georgia he was able to reach civilisation and organise a rescue for the men he had left behind on Elephant Island. This was made more difficult by the overwhelming trends leading to World War I. And what are the drivers behind War? Pride? Greed? But I feel myself on thin ice here. Another posting perhaps.