The Baywatch Theory: How to ride the Technology wave like a pro


We are all too familiar with 'Baywatch' - the American action drama series about the Los Angeles County lifeguards. With over 242 episodes spanning across 11 seasons, Baywatch continues to remain one of the most watched television shows in the world! Growing up in the late 90s, I have had my fair share of Baywatch-watching days (much to my parents' chagrin, at times!). So when I heard of a session titled, 'The Baywatch Theory: HR in a World Disrupted by Technology', at the recently concluded SHRM HR Tech Conference 2018, India chapter, I was more than keen to attend it (and I did!).

Presented by Gaurav Mahajan, President - Group Apparel and Made-to-Measure, Raymond Limited, the session focused on the Tech disruptions that have and are poised to drastically alter the lives of the workforce, especially in the Textile & Apparel industry. But what really caught my attention was a theory he shared, that is so potent yet easy to apply in Technology. No matter what function or industry you work in. Or even if you have watched an episode of Baywatch or not! :)

Of the Ocean and the Waves

All surfers know that the ocean is not always calm. There are days when there is no wind at all, when there is a quiet calm and the surface of the ocean is like a mirror. Then there are days when the wind blows like a storm, cautioning to throw you off guard. And, in between, are times when the wind blows gently offshore, gently caressing the waves. So while wind is a major factor to surfing (or not surfing) well, as any surfer already knows, waves are what it's really all about. Reading them, Timing them, and Working on them is the name of the game.

In essence, the 'Baywatch Theory' (as it's being termed and applied in Raymond currently), is an analogy for a surfer as s/he prepares to and then rides the wave. The 'surfer' in none other than folks in the HR/ L&D/ OD/ IT/ Marketing & Sales and other key functions; folks like you and me. The 'wave' is 'Technology' in its various avatars. And, the theory is about 'surfing the (technology) wave' successfully.

The Baywatch Theory in Practice

One of the many things that make surfing so much of a challenge, is that every wave is different. In business parlance, every upcoming Technology/Trend is different with a distinct use-case and application. However, mere knowledge about the upcoming Technology is not sufficient. Following the below three-step process is what takes forward-thinking organizations/ functions from good to great.

1. Read the wave

Whether you're a beginner, a weekend warrior, an intermediate or a pro surfer, reading waves and the direction in which they break is one of the most important skills in surfing. While this involves a great deal of observation, it has great paybacks too as it allows you to catch the best waves more often - so less wipeouts and more fun.

In business terms, keeping an eye out for the latest in Technology is the stepping stone to success. The key here is to not get overwhelmed by anything and everything out there, but to sift through and see through a lens that enables you to focus on technologies and trends related to you/ your industry.

Takeaway: Only a handful of technologies have the true potential to impact your business/ work in the future. The trick is determining which of these technologies will really work for you and focusing on those only.

2. Time the timing

Choosing the wave is half the battle. Deciphering the wave's genetic code to determine if it will break left or right and take action accordingly "at the right time" is critical for surfing smoothly.

Translating this into technology and business, it means that along with focusing on the technologies (applicable to your function/ industry), it's important to know 'when to adopt them'. Quite simply because the innovation brought on by new technology is often a double-edged sword. On the one hand, advancements are great and they pave the way for processes/products/services that are better, faster, and more versatile. However, these very advancements might have compatibility issues/ less awareness in the market (leading to low consumption) that can prove inconvenient at best or unusable at worst, if you are an early adopter. Being late to the party is no fun either when you are playing catch-up with your competitors and peers, and the technology has become a default expectation rather than a USP.

Takeaway: Timing, while being a gamble, is the key to making or breaking the success of your tech initiative. Keep your ears on the ground to get all signs of readiness from your team(s) internally as from your consumers, before setting upon your adoption process.

3. Keep your balance

As every pro surfer will tell you, balance is a critical piece of the surfing puzzle. And, the principle of 'if you don't use it you lose it' definitely applies to balance. Meaning you need to work on maintaining your balance on the surf board at all times once you have launched yourself into the wave, to avoid being "pitched over" or "wiped out".

Takeaway: With technology too, just jumping on the bandwagon because everyone is doing it or simply because it looks fancy will get you nowhere. Leveraging the adopted technology to give you positive returns is hard work. You need to work at it constantly to be able to sustain it and derive value.

Technology doesn't descend on us overnight. It builds gradually. Oftentimes, right in front of our very eyes. It can be ruthless if you are not prepared. But it can be greatly beneficial if you are. And more often than not, it's about learning to look ahead in the water, and not down at your feet.