I was at the V&A in Dundee recently, learning more about how design thinking can help leaders build better companies. I took the opportunity to visit the amazing ‘Speed and Style’ exhibition, exploring the golden age of ocean liners. My home overlooks the Firth of Clyde so I often have the opportunity to see some of the world’s most magnificent cruise ships – the offspring of the ocean liners.
I had not realised how opulent the originals were; “a glamorous, self-contained world, with sleek art-deco interiors, where beautiful women in gold lamé glide down sensuous, curving staircases to be greeted by elegant men in evening dress. And I did not know that this staircase was referred to as ‘La Grande Descente’. Wonderful!
But perhaps also reflected is the decline of these grand ocean liners, overtaken by air-travel, world wars and shifting cultural norms.
Evening dress is not quite my choice of attire as I take the Kilcreggan Ferry across to Gourock! Something warmer and more practical is called for.
The Queen Mary is my local ocean liner – and the only one I have been on, but not while she was sailing the seven seas!
Built on the Clyde, work began on her construction during the great depression. She was only completed after government support was given, partly as an economic stimulus.
The Queen Mary is now permanently berthed at Long Beach in California, a hotel celebrating a bygone age. With its iconic three funnels the Queen Mary is still a significant landmark, a magnificent feat of design and engineering, of skilled and manual labour and of the organisational abilities of human beings.
The Queen Mary at Long Beach, California
It took leadership and management to make all this happen, the ability to see what might be, what it would take to make it happen, and the commitment to actually see it through.
But regardless of how well we do, change is happening all around us, and even our best efforts will gradually fade.
So leaders need to keep adapting. Continual learning and flexibility go alongside. If we’re in the wheelhouse it lies with us.
A Ship in Harbour Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For
Attributed to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper