By Ryan Skinner (email)
Alas, this blog almost died.
I work in a different city now, and with companies whose interest is far from those curious concerns of shipowners (most of them, anyway). Today if I say ECDIS or Aframax people look at me funny. They respond "gesundheit." There's no reason to explore shipping anymore. And what should I blog about then?
But. But. But....
How could I abandon shipping so easily? I could not.
There is the sober money that enthrals, in London or Oslo. There are the hungry metropolitans of Manila and Shanghai. Not to mention the garrulous, frank, cunning and generous guys and gals who hold countless strange stories of what really happens in this industry. Cycles within cycles within cycles.
As if to bookend to the Nor-Shipping that much of me was building up to, I feel it oddly appropriate to launch a new, different shipping-shaped enterprise.
This describes that enterprise.
I aim to focus like a laser on the one thing that shipping does so excruciatingly well that any industry can, and must, learn by it.
A business in any industry must apply this kind of focus on what the market wants of its industry, and become so good at it that the business becomes unavoidable - a synonym for its industry.
So what is this skill, this expertise, in the shipping industry? I argue: uncertainty.
No industry in the world deals with a larger set of variables on a daily basis than shipping. Even the gaming industry is simply dominos by comparison.
In other words, if businessmen everywhere could learn one thing from the shipping industry it would be this: How to live with, and win by, uncertainty.
I've said it before. I'll say it again, and again, and again. This is shipping's big idea. It's not about how much crap is moved from A to B. Or why it's moved. Or where. Or when. Or on what damned piece of steel. It's about the wobbliness upon which the whole enterprise rests, and which an industry lives and thrives.
Anyone who's ever crossed a border, planned a party, mail-ordered a package, introduced himself to a foreigner or assessed whether a leap was too far, or not, can relate to the big idea, if in a small way.
Shipping's real value lies in professionalizing, and perfecting, an approach to risk and uncertainty. That is a lesson and a skill worth exploring and exploding, for an industry determined to make its presence felt.
So that's just what I aim to do. Explore this big idea, by talking to the kinds of people who are determined to excel at it. The people who take financial risk, political risk, legal risk, and every other kind of risk as seriously as one can take it. Who want to be so good at it, that it marks them, and everyone they touch.
I'll be looking for sources for this project. Do you fit the bill? Let me know. Do you know someone, a person or company, who excels at this skill? Tip me off, or tip them off. This is a topic I'll be returning to in the continuation of this blog, until there's a book-sized piece of knowledge to share.
And then I'll turn it into a book.