‘Titanic’ lessons on strategic management (and it’s not what you think!)

by | Jun 5, 2019

As business owners, we must wrangle our long-term goals and guide them safely into the corral if we want to succeed.

Howzabout (I sometimes make up words) this as our example?

Strategically expanding deep sea exploration
while throwing in the RMS Titanic for good measure.

Oh, yeah. The ultimate.

And a wwhhoollee different direction than you figured from my headline … right?! 😉

“What the heck is strategic management?”

It’s about taking small, purposeful steps to get where we want to be.
(Sort of like a toddler, but with wwaayy more responsibility.)

We can’t just sit around and wait for ‘it’ to happen …

… whatever ‘it’ may be.

The fun part

Figuring out the strategy is part of the fun.

Copywriting, editing, and proofing.

This is my world. But, I asked myself the same questions you do:

What can I do to stand out in my industry?

Is there a way to re-energize my company services?

How can I offer something unique?

Thinking ahead is the key!

Thinking ahead is the key!

The non-snooze-worthy answer

If you’re subscribed to my posts, you know I don’t ‘do’ boring.
And this topic could become snooze-worthy f-a-s-t!

I’ve left out most of my research, but let me tell you where we’re headed:

We will visit Robert Ballard’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution team in its furthering of underwater research, as well as take a peek at a little-known movie production unit: Lightstorm Entertainment.

While the Lightstorm name may be unfamiliar, the CEO is not:

James Cameron of Titanic movie fame

I was wrong

My hypothesis about Ballard and Cameron:

Their interest in the Titanic was about retrieving artifacts (shudder).

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Both men viewed the site as sacrosanct, and neither team desecrated it.

Documenting the resting place

The two people most responsible for showing us the sunken ship began their fascination with the ocean many years – and thousands of miles – apart.

Robert Ballard

Wanting to further deep sea exploration, Mr. Ballard knew investors might need motivation to fund a project.

“I felt the magic of the lost ship would help attract funding that would enable me to make a major step forward in underwater research and technology.”  – Robert Ballard

James Cameron

The TV world of the late 1960s/early ’70s showed Jacques Cousteau exploring the deep ocean.

Although he was landlocked in Ontario, Canada, James Cameron decided ocean exploration was part of his future.

He began taking steps to secure the journey.

Notice I say he ‘… began taking steps.’
There’s the key to our topic.
One strategic step at a time, working toward our goals.

By early 2010, Cameron had spent about 3,000 hours under water, 500 of them in submersibles (including the Titanic excursions).

A 'Titanic' lesson on strategic management

A ‘Titanic’ lesson on strategic management

Thinking outside the box

Remember my questions as I started my strategic management journey:

“What can I do to stand out …?”
“How can I offer something unique?”

Ballard and Cameron understood the benefits of strategically
thinking-outside-the-box to improve a product or repurpose a business tool.

The submersible (‘Improve’)

Ballard’s group replaced mini sub Alvin’s hull with a titanium alloy, allowing dives to twice its original max depth.

With the new capability, Alvin was the only submersible (at that time) certified to carry people to the Titanic.

Investors realized the built-in fundraising possibilities … and said, “Yes.”

The camera (‘Repurpose’)

“[The] high definition 3D camera was developed for a completely other project and we just realized that applying it to this [the Titanic] environment would work really well.” – James Cameron

Filming – instead of still photography mosaics (does anyone else remember those?) – changed everything about viewing the ship.

The results?


“Now what?”

“Now what?”

As Ballard and Cameron did so masterfully, what can we improve or repurpose to help us expand strategically in our industries?

For you …

Perhaps alterations will reinvigorate your profession:

• Can you implement a more compassionate way to run an MRI?
• Is there a new, jaw-dropping way to use X? (Do you even need X?)
• Could your theory revolutionize your industry?

For me …

‘Improve’ was my tactic, and this led to a new division for Kathie York Writing: strategic website assessments (which I call ‘proofing on steroids.’ Ha!).

I began by asking, “How can I help clients …”:

• Optimize their websites and enhance SEO?
• Tighten coding to attract new customers?
• Make their visible text grab more attention?

The strategy begins here … with 6 words

For all the questions in the previous section, there’s one simple answer:

“I don’t know. Let’s find out.”

Ballard and Cameron dovetailed their varied experience into incredible ‘upsells.’

And they used strategic management principles to get there.

We can, too.

Let’s put on our strategic management hats … and go for it!

Join the Conversation: Tell us if you

  • Are working on a strategic plan, and where you find the most obstacles.
  • Think all this work isn’t worth the effort, and what you’re doing instead.
  • Wonder how you’ll ever get it all done … but will try strategic planning!

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Let’s learn from each other!

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  1. "Is it OK to write like I talk?" - Kathie York - […] example, when I present James Cameron’s and Robert Ballard’s strategic management processes to get us to the RMS Titanic,…

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