Experience, open-mindedness and vision lead the way in shipping

Every industry has its peculiarities, but for most people on the outside, the shipping industry is particularly peculiar. Is it really as peculiar as people imagine? In some ways it is, but as someone who’s been in shipping man and boy, it’s hard for me to compare it with any other industry. I can’t help but suspect that every industry has its fair share of characteristics. But one of the things that makes shipping a particularly tough nut to crack in my view is the fact that it is cumbersome to change and everything that’s done within it is done on such a huge scale.

The challenges for Boards of Directors and New Players

So when a shipping Board of Directors wants to breathe new life into their company, what should they do? Or when someone on the outside with no shipping experience wants to get in, what do they need to know?

In my mind, you first need a pure visionary on side who can look beyond the details that they are bogged down in. And secondly you need an experienced and forward looking realist to act as the bridge between their hopes and reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the shipping industry has a whole lot going for it right now. I personally believe that there are any number of opportunities for Board Members to adopt a different approach and increase market share/profiltability. I am also convinced that there are significant opportunities for players from other industries to come in with new ideas and enjoy a great ROI at the same time as bringing a whole new aspect to the industry. In my view, the key to all this is having realistic expectations.

Digitisation is on the horizon and it’s being hailed by many as THE thing that will revolutionise the shipping more than anything else in living history. I’m a bit more cautious. Yes, I believe that digitisation has the potential to turn the industry upside down in terms of efficiency, but that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. Neither is it going to happen at all unless the right solutions are developed for the right problems. But that’s another subject all together.

So back to the question in hand. How can a shipping Board of Directors or a new player from another industry make the most of the opportunities that are open to them right now in our industry? Here are the three key elements in my mind:

Drawing on experience

Experience in the shipping industry is an essential part of achieving success in shipping in my view. As I will outline below, I think there are lots of things that can be learned from other industries to improve shipping, but at the core, I think for current players and new players to maximise opportunities there is a need for experience. That experience may already be present in the shipping companies themselves or it might take the shape of consultancy. Either way, drawing on experienced intrapreneurs, or quality external support is essential.

Looking beyond shipping

The other magic ingredient I believe, is looking beyond the shipping industry for inspiration; for insight into how things might be done differently. Sometimes the things that have the greatest impact are the things that appear minor or insignificant at the outset. Think of any disruptive solution that works well and you’ll see what I mean. The simplest solutions can have the greatest impact. And sometimes, the most impactful ideas come from the most surprising places.

Being open-minded

Shipping is steeped in tradition, overshadowed by big numbers and sometimes crippled by risk, so the need for vision and open-mindedness in order to accelerate is huge. It’s also a tough industry that doesn’t always nurture those states of mind (vision and open-mindedness). But to me, an open-minded visionary from another industry or the right intrapreneur can have a whole lot to bring to the shipping table.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear from you if you have a view about what I have said about the shipping industry today. I’d be keen to hear your views on the thoughts I’ve outlined here — do you agree; do you disagree? Please leave comments here on Medium, on my LinkedIn Company Page, or alternatively you could visit my website http://www.fblarsen.com/. The more we work together, the more we will move our industry forward.

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