We just wanted to share some lessons from a headmaster at an international school in Singapore. We think these rules of survival are appropriate to any business or startup.
Just finished a book called "Deep survival: who lives,
who dies, and why". Gonzales talks through various scenarios of people
being lost in the wilderness and analyzes their decisions, attitudes, and
results. It is very interesting to note that most of the folks who survived. I
have included his rules for survival as I see them in a business (or
- Being Cool
Stress or high emotion interferes with clear thinking. Those who can learn to think clearly and make good decisions under stress or in high emotional states survive better.
- Bending the Map
: In the sport of orienteering, you have to navigate across unfamiliar country using a detailed map. If you ever start saying to yourself, "Well, that lake could have dried up," or "That mountain could have moved," you are doing what they call "Bending the Map." You are denying the reality before you and substituting the world you expect to see–and would rather see. When Ken Olson, head of Digital Equipment Corporation, the second largest computer company in the world, ignored the IBM PC as unimportant, he was bending the map (the map being a long-time corporate strategy that didn’t include PCs). DEC no longer exists because of that mistake.
- Seeing the Gorilla
In a famous psychology study at Harvard, more than 56 percent of subjects failed to see a man in a gorilla suit cross a basketball court in full view while they were concentrating on counting passes the players made. (This was the task given them by researchers.) It’s amazing what we can miss when we’re focused on what we think is important. Peter McColough, head of Xerox, managed to ignore the fact that his own engineers had invented the PC, the mouse, the graphical user interface, the laser printer, and Ethernet, right under his nose. Xerox lost more than a billion dollars in cash and untold revenues from personal computers as a result.
- Celebrating the
Summit: Mountain climbers celebrate on the summit, even though the hardest part of the trip is still before them: Getting back. Most accidents happen on descent, when you’re tired and drop your guard. Companies and even individual careers are subject to the same rules: You’re most vulnerable at the top of your game and at those times when you feel most secure and confident. Most companies don’t plan for this. In fact, in business, there is no
- Avoiding The
: You’ve done something risky before and gotten away with it, despite the odds. You do it again, and still nothing bad happens. This teaches you that it’s safe and sets you up for failure. Climbers onMount Hood and elsewhere do this all the time–and die as a result. Both Peter McCollough at Xerox and Ken Olson at DEC had defied
doubters and taken huge risks before, and those successful experiences ultimately blinded them to the possibility of failure.
- Beginner’s Mind
Even when you’re successful–and especially when you’re most successful–you have to know what you don’t know. This is the Zen concept of "Beginner’s Mind," a willingness to take in new information. Some call that humility.
- Having a Flexible Plan :
Whether in business or in the wilderness, the environment is always
changing. If you think the path you’re on is the only path, you will eventually find trouble. When Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce founded Intel, their greatest invention was not the computer chip, it was a company that could change plans faster than anyone else.