Business Lessons From a Boat Race

Earlier this week Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) took the Americas Cup from Oracle Team USA (OTUSA) and it was a great day to be a Kiwi.

There are some key lessons to be learnt from this on why ETNZ won. Although to some this was just a boat race, it can also be viewed as a modern day version of David and Goliath. ETNZ as David and OTUSA as the well funded, well provisioned giant Goliath. With two boats that for the layman look the same but are not.

ETNZ knew two things coming into this race, you can’t rely on winning if you do things the same way as everyone else or as they have always been done and you need a world class team of support and specialists around you to ensure everything goes off without a hitch.

In traditional yachting you rely on ropes and pulleys and hands on man-power to trim the sails and guide the boat. ETNZ used technology and innovation to do things smarter.

They asked themselves how could we do better? They took what looked like a regular sail boat and reinvented it. They hired a world class design team from non traditional sailing backgrounds, a surfer from the U.S. that could build a drone to show them every aspect of the boat from every possible angle in a way that had never been done before.

ETNZ changed the “engine” of the boat. In the latest Americas Cup boats they rely heavily on hydraulic power, traditionally generated by human grinders that peddle with their arms to build hydraulic pressure. ETNZ looked at this process and decided it was inefficient so they swapped traditional grinders for Olympic cyclist. Cyclists obviously use leg muscles, a much bigger muscle group to do the same job. The Cyclists could also stay lower in the boat, creating less windage. The ETNZ cyclists were specialists in their on board jobs and did not have to worry about doing other tasks.

This innovation allowed ETNZ to build hydraulic power much faster and more efficiently than normal, requiring much less energy expended.

The net result was that the ETNZ boat was more efficient because of the technology and innovation that went into it and using the most appropriate tool for the job.

OTUSA are a very smart team, they knew that the Kiwis had a technical advantage, so they tried to imitate them. They tried to copy the technology but in the end their boat was not built to take advantage of the innovation and their retrofit was a poor imitation and in the end, they took it off.

The last point I want to make is that if you capsize as ETNZ did and if your sailing hard you probably will, you want to make damn sure that you have a the team behind you that is there to support you is world class and that they can get you back on the course quickly and efficiently so that you can continue your race.

What lessons can be learned from this?

For the layman, many things that are similar look the same. The devil is in the detail, was this device built for the technology it is using or was the technology added as an afterthought because someone else has done it.

Something that is purpose built for a task is much better than something that is bolted on or retrofitted later. Pure Storage is the founder of the modern All Flash Array. The FlashArray was purpose built to take advantage of flash in the modern enterprise.

Technology is evolving to make things more efficient and give you a tactical and operational advantage, use it. Look to companies that are innovating, that want to do things better to give you a business advantage.

Build solutions around world class teams that can challenge the norm and be innovative. Pure Storage has a SatMetrix certified NPS of 83.5, that’s huge, that’s world class and it has been independently verified. Customers that use Pure, love Pure and are happy to tell you and anyone that will listen about it.

My original article