Shipping’s big idea: Uncertainty

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Nothing defines shipping’s core competence better than “risk”. It’s shipping’s gift to the rest of the business world.

By Ryan Skinner (email)

There’s one thing that shipping does so excruciatingly well that any industry can, and must, learn by it.

A business in any industry must apply this kind of focus on what the market wants of its industry, and become so good at it that the business becomes unavoidable – a synonym for its industry.

So what is this skill, this expertise, in the shipping industry? I argue: uncertainty.

Risk.

No industry in the world deals with a larger set of variables on a daily basis than shipping. Even the gaming industry is simply dominos by comparison.

In other words, if businessmen everywhere could learn one thing from the shipping industry it would be this: How to live with, and win by, uncertainty.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again, and again, and again. This is shipping’s big idea. It’s not about how much crap is moved from A to B. Or why it’s moved. Or where. Or when. Or on what damned piece of steel. It’s about the wobbliness upon which the whole enterprise rests, and which an industry lives and thrives.

Anyone who’s ever crossed a border, planned a party, mail-ordered a package, introduced himself to a foreigner or assessed whether a leap was too far, or not, can relate to the big idea, if in a small way.

Shipping’s real value lies in professionalizing, and perfecting, an approach to risk and uncertainty. That is a lesson and a skill worth exploring and exploding, for an industry determined to make its presence felt.


Ryan Skinner is a digital marketing and social media specialist and the founder of ShipCrunch. He has been blogging since 1999.