What Scuba Diving Taught Me About Business Strategy and Communication
On a beautiful cloudless sunny day, we packed our gear early in the morning and eagerly awaited the transportation vehicle. Today was a special day. We were planning on diving in one of the most magnificent cave systems in the world; the Cenotes of the Riviera Maya. We were a diverse group comprised of myself, two Germans, and an American led by a fully certified Mexican Full Cave Dive Master. The specs on paper looked fantastic. More than 300 ft. of visibility, practically no current, fresh water, and no encumbrances from the outside environment. Beyond these ideal conditions, we were going to experience archeological remnants as far back as the ice age including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, helectites, and various other archaeological remains including ancient wall paintings, astonishing light beams, refraction effects, hydrogen sulfide clouds, and haloclines.
Adapting Communication Styles to your Surroundings
The dive started well, we were all in line and proceeding as instructed. The magnificent array of colours soon dimmed. Armed with our flashlights, we proceeded to enter the first cave system. Within these narrow quarters, two inexperienced divers were having problems with buoyancy control, this caused a tremendous amount of sand to be kicked up in addition to rapid ascension consistently hitting their gear on the sharp roof of the cave system. Our only emergency communication was through light signalling techniques. Now at zero visibility, and no viable options to even turn around, we went from paradise, to a potentially catastrophic situation and zero communication. With an elevated heart rate, I recall feeling nearly helpless. I knew if this progressed any further, I did not have enough room to help my fellow dive mates. We managed to get through the chaos and finally emerged into another majestic site where everyone was breathing a little easier knowing we experienced an event that could have easily turned fatal.
The Elements of Effective Communication and Strategy
The advent of globalization and the Internet of Things (IoT) has already connected us in more ways than many of us know; with the prospects of becoming even more so. This experience brought to light many unintentional consequences of today’s integrated business environments and some of the pitfalls to watch out for:
- Diversity & Communication: we all communicate. Are we communicating the right message? How do we know? This becomes especially true when communicating across cultural and geographical boundaries. Make sure your message is on point and tailored to the audience you are trying to reach. More importantly, make sure to have a feedback mechanism to confirm it. Otherwise you are leaving your audience to openly interpret your intentions. Having a well-diversified organization can shed a significant amount of light when key global linkages have to be made.
- Experience: we all want out of the box innovative thinking. Make sure your innovative approach to business does not stray too far from your core competency. There is a significant difference between doing things better and doing things completely different. An experienced teammate can bring stability and clarity when faced with turmoil and is less likely to collapse in the face of adversity. They can also recognize when technology is complicating the true nature of your product or service delivery or when it is truly enhancing the value proposition.
- Patience: in the age of instant gratification, make sure you recognize that patience, at times, still remains a virtue. As business interactions become more complicated, do not expect traditional response times. This becomes more evident when dealing with cultural differences, geographical dispersion, and seasoned but largely traditional organizational leaders. Most often they are also trying to make sense out of rapidly transitioning environments and having to make non-traditional decisions.
- Practice Makes Permanent: whether diving or engaging in daily activities, ensure your team is still practicing a fundamental systemized approach. If you are practicing the wrong activities, your team will become extremely efficient at doing the wrong things. Ensure your processes are relevant, concise, clear, and easily transferable and repeatable by the majority of your employees. This will bring execution clarity in times of scalability and provide operational diversity as a fallback position when faced with economic uncertainty. From my experience, organizations with a systemized focus have a clear understanding of their capacity and capability and by measuring these things, they are better decision makers.
The rate of change in the business environments we operate in is growing exponentially. Organizations that follow these simple steps can insure they are ready for change. We will never be able to control the environment around us. We can, however control how adaptable we are to this ever changing environment.