Two Takeaways from ‘The Voyage of the Entdecker’

In “The Voyage of the Entdecker” by B.A. Simmons, a small group decides to take on the outpost of an empire in an effort to free the natives and send a message that these seas are dangerous. They realize they are outmanned and outgunned; they will have to use hunting tactics if they want to have any success.

There first plan fails and sends the army into the forest looking for the rebels. The small group decides to fortify the abandoned castle on the sea cliff. With the enemy quickly approaching, the rebel group has to complete their fortifications before the army arrives. Rather than look at the weakest points in the castle, they fortify the main entrance creating a kill zone.

It works as they repel the first attack and send the soldiers back into the forest. The rebels show their inexperience and celebrate the temporary victory. When they realize their folly and find the soldiers coming over the weakest part of the castle, it’s too late to do anything but retreat. They grab the wounded in defeat and having inflicted far less damage than they wanted.

Had they just examined the castle beforehand and started fortifying earlier while focusing on the weaknesses, which the army was likely to attack, they would have stood a better chance, or at least inflicted more casualties, which was their goal. A simple trench filled with spikes would have been enough to change the outcome for the better. Which leaves us with two lessons to be learned:

Don’t Celebrate Too Soon

YAY! SUCCESS! Celebrating wins is important for motivation. It’s important for morale, and it’s important to let off some steam. However, the celebration needs to happen at the right time. Celebrating too soon will lead to disaster and not only erase any of the positives gained from the celebration but also make the loss that much worse. Choose the right time to celebrate your victories. Hint: It’s not after the first attack; that’s just a test of the defenses.

Improve Your Weaknesses

In any battle or sporting event, the opponent always attacks the other person’s weaknesses. Exploiting those weaknesses is a good way to win. Negotiations work the same way. If the person on the other side knows you need to get a deal done quickly, he or she can stall until your willing to accept any offer regardless of its fairness.

Someone said, “If you strengthen your weaknesses, you just end up with a lot of strong weaknesses.” Others advise that working on strengths will allow you to maintain your dominance in your field; business that play to their strengths are more successful, they argue.

However, a business that is strong in one area will only survive for as long as it has no challengers. You can make the greatest widgets in the world, but if another company has better branding or better service and it makes widgets that are only slightly inferior to your product, it will take the first business’ market share and ultimately drive it out of business.

In 1975, Betamax was the only home video tape system available. It owned the market. Its weaknesses included a short recording time and a machine that was too expensive. Rather than work on improving that, they decided that the picture quality would see them through. Betamax offered the better picture, but VHS defeated it based on the other qualities that Betamax ignored or couldn’t match. Many of us still have VHS tapes in our homes.

In the 1980s, the company’s strength was in its theme parks not in its film making, in fact there was even discussion of eliminating the animation studio altogether. Had Disney not worked on its weakness, it wouldn’t be the entertainment behemoth it is today.

Working on your weaknesses doesn’t have to come at the expense of working on your strengths, too. Often you can work on both and improving your weaknesses will enhance your strength. However, if you find your business (or yourself) in a position where you can hire someone to provide you with the strength you don’t have at the moment, you could find yourself in a better position to win every battle.

Maybe, our rebels in “The Voyage of the Entdecker” didn’t have the time to work on their defenses, or they were too inexperienced to consider the defense as a whole. Whatever it was, we can learn something from them and their failures.