You Better Be Ready

Published: Oct 26 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

On Sunday last week an Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, jumped from space. He set a world record for the highest jump, at 39km, and the fastest human free-fall, at 1,342km/h. Just to give some context, a Boeing 747 travels at about 917km/h. Pretty quick.

The man broke the sound barrier.

You can watch it on YouTube here

The planning and preparation that went into the event was staggering. As well as the man himself a team of dedicated engineers, ground crew, meteorologists, suit designers and interestingly the previous holder of the world's highest jump as the man in Baumgartner's ear talking to him throughout the entire process.

After a salute to the millions watching around the world, Baumgartner

said: "I'm going over" before jumping. Infrared cameras captured him as he began his startling descent.

And that is when my heart almost stopped.

After falling in what appeared to be a controlled manner he began to lose control, turning over and over in what seemed to be a deadly, chaotic spin. If this spin was not controlled quickly, the centrifugal force would push blood to his body's extremities and Baumgartner would pass out. He needed to be conscious to open his chute; if his chute remained unopened, he would plummet to certain death.

Baumgarter had to call on all of his skill and experience to halt the spin and regain control of the situation. Thankfully he was able to do that and landed safely a few minutes later, to massive relief and applause.

The ability to read a situation and keep a cool head - despite things going off track - is the result of clear pre-event scenario-planning , but crucially also the ability to react appropriately to real time happenings.

In difficult negotiations we can find ourselves spinning out of control despite the most rigorous planning. Getting that control back is only possible if

  • we plan ahead and have clear goals and a strategy to help us achieve those goals
  • we learn to control our emotions during the event itself
  • we have a clear strategy to buy time if things go wrong during the event
  • our strategy is adaptable and flexible enough to cope when things wrong.

You can only play what is in front of you. Recognising what that is and how to react is a big part of the game.

Alan Smith, Partner


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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