Conquer business like a mountain

Business consultant and mountaineer Patrick Hollingworth has conquered Everest and believes there are strong parallels between businesses struggling to adapt to change and climbing a mountain.

Hollingworth, author of the book The Light and Fast Organisation, is using his mountaineering experiences to help businesses approach and deal with increasing uncertainty.

He says uncertainly and complexity are primarily being driven by rapid growth in technology and the traditional business model isn’t keeping up.

“The way that most organisations go about doing the work they do is by a very traditional linear approach, it’s structured, its sequential with a preference for order and for hierarchy,” he says.

“There’s very centralised top down decision making, very slow response times and generally a reliance on sometimes fixed and sometimes heavy infrastructure.

“I guess the thesis is that the traditional approach to running organisations is likely to provide diminishing returns as complexity and uncertainty increases into the future.”

Hollingworth says light and fast is a mountaineering term that gives businesses the agility and flexibility to adapt to the accelerating rate of change happening globally.

“Light and fast is just a mountaineering metaphor,” he says.

“The way I saw it was the world’s obsession with linearity in traditional even paced sequential growth that sort of plays out in the mountains as well. It’s called expedition style and relies upon fixed infrastructure, large teams with heavy manpower and centralised leadership.

“When unexpected events happen through unprecedented levels of complexity and uncertainty that sort of approach starts to break down.

“In the world of climbing, approach is known as a light and fast and it’s a more agile way of climbing a mountain, it’s less dependent upon fixed infrastructure and it prefers to operate in smaller, decentralised teams.”

He says this approach gives mountaineers and businesses the ability to read the world around them, identify the nature of the change and what’s driving it and respond accordingly.

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