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5 Priceless Lessons from Amundsen and Scott


In preparation for an upcoming presentation, Iíve become a bit obsessed with studying the 1910 expeditions and race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott to 90-degrees South (the South Pole).† The lessons for leaders and managers practically leap off the pages of this classic example of coping with risk, uncertainty and volatility.

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Comments (2)
While interesting, this abstract comparing Amundsen's and Scott's expeditions neglected to factor in the critical nuance of values and their impact on goal achievement and project success. For Amundsen, the singular prize was being first to win the race. For Scott, scientific exploration was of equal importance, perhaps even more so than being first to the pole. As for Scott's decision to not use dogs, part of the reasoning was a reluctance to treat the animals as expendible resources, unlike Amundsen's team which strategically killed the dogs at various points in the expedition so that they could be used as food on the return trek. Basically, this excerpt could have presented a more balanced approach to decision making and goal attainment rather than comparing apples and oranges.
Posted by Juliana S | Wednesday, January 08 2014 at 5:13PM ET
Actually, the article pointedly did address the nuances of values and their impact. Point #2, regarding focus, notes that Scott tried to accomplish two different objectives without sufficient resources to succeed in both. His penalty was catastrophic failure to achieve either goal. Point #5, regarding nobility and practicality, doesn't mention that Amundsen intentionally killed some of his dogs, but does address the fact that Scott placed his notion of nobility above project success or team survival. By the way, lest Scott's reluctance to use dogs sounds too humane, remember that he did use ponies, all of whom died a most cruel and inhumane death due to freezing. Also, Scott ultimately treated his human team as an expendable resource, sacrificing their lives for the goal of reaching the pole. An interesting third comparison would be Ernest Shackleton, who almost certainly could have reached the South Pole a few years before either Scott or Amundsen. His first expedition did get within reach of the pole, but Shackleton turned around when he determined that he didn't have sufficient food and fuel to achieve the pole and make it back alive. When Scott reached essentially the same point, he decided to press on and hope for the best.
Posted by Douglas J | Wednesday, January 08 2014 at 6:30PM ET
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