What the armed forces can teach business

WHEN CAPTAIN Gareth Tennant was patrolling with the Royal Marines in the Gulf of Aden in 2010, his team intercepted some Somali pirates on two skiffs. The pirates’ weapons were confiscated and the marines waited for clearance to release their prisoners. The plan was to tow the ne’er-do-wells back to Somali waters. But the pirates misread the troops’ intentions, and thought they were about to be abandoned at sea; a few jumped into the water while the rest attacked Mr Tennant’s team.

For a brief period, there was chaos. Mr Tennant was unable to give any orders. But his team acted anyway. One boat rescued the Somalis who had jumped into the water; another came alongside to offer support in ending the fight.

His team acted that way, Mr Tennant argues, because they were used to working with each other and they had war-gamed what might go wrong. In contrast, the pirates were suffering from fear, stress and fatigue, and acted on gut instinct. “If you haven’t gone through the decision-making process in advance, then gut instinct tends to kick in,” Mr Tennant says.

Now Mr Tennant is back in civilian life, acting as an adviser to the Future Strategy Club, an association of consultants. And he believes the habits learned in the Royal Marines can be useful for business life.

Given the long history of blunders in...



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