Wilderness Echo

What Can We Learn From Explorers As We Navigate Today’s World?

Like most people, I am shocked by the speed and impact of the global pandemic. Balancing human health and economic consequences of wholesale lockdowns has left governments and organisations across the world scrambling to make sense of it all.

To repeat a phrase I heard recently  “the world is being held to ransom by a microscopic microbe.” The problem is that the ransom is not a fixed price, it changes with each case and tragic death, each economic forecast and each news cycle. How do we pay the price when we are not sure what the price is?

We are  more than 9 months into this rollercoaster ride so perhaps it’s time to take a breath and adopt a more considered approach.

I believe we can learn many things from the way explorers go about their business. An explorer is defined as someone who travels to places that are new or undiscovered. Willingly or unwillingly, we are all being asked to become explorers – to find “something new or undiscovered”…

There are many attributes that contribute to the competence of the explorer. Here are three that I think are worth thinking about as we wrestle with what the unpredictable future will bring.

Adopt a positive mindset

Explorers are constantly venturing into the unknown. There are no books, maps and charts, and no roadmap. There is no perfect, they are the first, defining the reality for others to follow.  This demands a curious mix of courage, commitment and humility. Courage to take on greater levels of risk and commitment because it is going to be hard going; and humility to recognise that they are not in control. Despite all this, they adopt a positive mindset.

Agree on a set of guiding principles

Whether an individual or team context, explorers need a set of simple rules that define their actions. The best guiding principles speed up decision-making and build trust. They turn intention into action and action into results. Guiding principles are distinct from values and are not meant to be everlasting. They are time and project bound and contextual.

Seize the moment

The best explorers have an uncanny ability to regulate pace. To slow down or speed up, to strive for consensus or make a captain’s call. In this way even a long expedition is broken down into smaller objectives that can be recognised and celebrated.

I have been lucky enough to have been on many expeditions, some more successful than others! When I think back on the most enjoyable and successful ones, they were with colleagues and friends that demonstrated the above.

What attributes do you think are essential to succeed in the current environment?

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