Saturday, 20 April 2013

Surf’s Up – The Surfer’s Guide To Management

Surf’s Up – The Surfer’s Guide To Management

Surfers come in all shapes and sizes but the really good ones are “obsessive”.

Go to Cornwall and you'll see the beginners, the vulnerable and the plodders floundering on the waters' edge. The 'real surfers' are far from the beach taking the big waves.

Surfers are always looking for the next big wave - They constantly scour the sea for the next wave - they look ahead, behind, beside, above and below for any clues as to where the next wave will come from. They constantly read the currents, undertows and rips of each beach. They are constantly aware and responding to minute changes in the weather and the immediate environment (including other surfers) - they recognise that their lives might depend on their ability to understand and respond to the environment. So, while they might try to plot a general course, their real interest (they have a nose for it) is in looking for the next big wave.

Good surfers are able to catch waves that others miss - They see, or rather they make, opportunities where others see none; they always seem to be in the right place at the right time.

Good surfers don't take risks but rather they do take calculated risks - Like good strategists, surfers recognise the need not to try and take every wave; they specialise, concentrate and focus their efforts to be as effective as possible - the 80/20 rule applies out with the waves as much as it does in the commercial environment.

Success and failure go hand-in-hand; the more you practice the luckier you seem to get - It takes practice to be able to successfully tackle the big waves: you start on the nursery beaches and work your way up to the really challenging waves. The big waves are not for the faint-of-heart; big excitement also means big danger!

Good surfers make it look so easy - Kelly Slater makes surfing through the rolling barrels of Tenerife and Hawaii look so very easy. Do not kid yourself - years of practice, hard work and learning from your mistakes are required before you can make it look so easy.

Spurts and fallbacks - The environment is not smooth. There are huge oscillations and short-lived surges for the surfer to conquer - the skill is to be able to spot trends, and harness your own strength to capitalise on often short-term movements - invest your energy to live to fight another day!

Relative power - Like most growing businesses the surfer lacks power relative to the market (waves) - surfers are often pushed and buffeted and seem to be as likely to go backwards as forwards - energy must be used to effectively leverage your own power. Use the power of the current and the wave to your own advantage.

Exploiting the environment - The skill is in recognising the surges and not to be thrown by them. The good surfer exploits the wave, no matter how temporary the advantage may appear to be. Watch a surfer as they paddle out to sea against the waves - no unnecessary energy is expended.

Flexibility and responsiveness - The surfer is able to tap hidden depths of physical and mental flexibility and responsiveness. The sea is unpredictable. You need to be able to react to whatever the elements might throw at you.

Entrepreneurs, like surfers, are driven by specific psychological attributes; some might describe these as flaws. Many have an all-consuming need to prove something to themselves and to others. Many suffer deep down from low self-esteem; some are profoundly insecure, always trying to prove that they can do better than the opinion that they hold of themselves.

Cary Cooper's description of entrepreneurs could be a description of a surfer - they are 'bounce-back' people with a powerful desire to achieve. They do not get distracted by either success or failure; they just plough on, never satisfied and constantly in fear of 'being found out'. Often after one success, they need to do it again to prove it was not a fluke.

Rupert Steiner's book, My First Break, goes on to explain that entrepreneurs see failure as confirming inner fears, but they do not give up. Instead they pick themselves up and attempt to show that they can get it right a second time - many do not care about anything other than the business in hand - it can be like a drug.

Steiner says that 'real entrepreneurs can never stop... once the buzz from the original fix has faded, many are on the look-out for their next fix'. Sounds like the classic surfer to me!

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