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Timing and Choices in Surfing…and Business

by Hank Barnes  |  June 19, 2017  |  1 Comment

This week, I am in Huntington Beach for the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference.   Before it started, I had a chance to take a walk early Sunday morning and watch some surfing (my poor attempt at an animated gif of one of the videos I tried to capture below).
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Since I tend to look for analogies a lot, I really noticed some parallels between what I observed and business.    While my crude animated gif shows one surfer, there were hundreds of them out there, looking for great waves.    As I watched them, I felt they could be clustered into 3 groups:

  • The “ride as many as we can” group – These folks road almost every wave they could get to.  Some weren’t big, but they kept busy, and used a lot of energy.
  • The “wait for a great wave” group –  These folks were pretty selective, letting many waves pass by waiting for a great one.  When they found it, they road it with style and flair.
  • The “we are still waiting” group – These folks didn’t ride any.  They may have been waiting for the perfect wave, but been a bit too select, or they just wanted to be out on the water, talking to friends.  More about socializing than surfing.

Beyond these groups, some of the surfers were all bunched together, going after the same waves.  Others, found a place all their own–less competition.

In business, we see the same thing. Some pursue lots of small opportunities.   Some companies look for a great wave, and ride it out, with great success.    Managed well, this can also be successful.  Finally, some stay where they are, missing potential opportunities.    Similarly, some flock together, going after the same customers and opportunities.  Others find a niche where there are less competitors.

There is not one success formula, it all depends on your business and your aspirations.   But, unless you want to stay put, you need to be aware of opportunities and make choices.   For surfers, timing is everything (the same as for business).   If you don’t time it right, the wave passes you by.  If you get in front of it, it can come crashing down on you.   Pick the wrong wave, and you might miss a great one that is right behind it.  But be too picky, and you miss everything.  And the wrong choices can result in expending a lot of energy and resources for little to no gain.

At the conference, we’re talking about growth options and opportunities.  Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA, is the perfect spot for this.  Like surfers, the choices you make matter.  Timing matters.   Look in front of you and behind you.

But if you’re there to play, don’t just stay put and let wave after wave of opportunity pass you by.

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: growth-strategies  strategy  surfing  timing  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
4+ years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Timing and Choices in Surfing…and Business


  1. I’m looking forward to see what new insights you’ll be sharing about digital growth at the TGI event this week. IT infrastructure can be applied as a catalyst for new customer experiences and creative digital business models. This year, it’s all about exploring the upside potential.



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