The Flying Boat

The Flying Boat

Imagine an entrepreneur, lets call him Jack, talking to his partners:

“Let’s cross the ocean together! We could do that! We could discover undiscovered countries and become rich! All we have to do is build a boat. We are qualified, experienced and motivated. Jim, you have experience with the open sea and know how to navigate. Bob, you know about construction and materials, and I would be an excellent skipper because I know how to motivate people and set a course. Let’s just do it!”

And so they do. After months of hard work, they have a good looking boat. It is a bit heavy and during the construction process they had to sacrifice some of the more interesting features they had planned for lack of money or resources. Bob found some bugs in the hull but thinks these will disappear once they start sailing.

Unfortunately, they do have one serious problem. They spent all their money on the boat, and forgot to plan for food. They know the entire trip will take a few weeks so they need to bring plenty of water and food. Fortunately, Bob has a rich Uncle, and they decide to ask him to invest in their plan. They prepare a few sheets that guarantee a nice return on investment for Uncle Bob should he decide to invest.

One fine morning Uncle Bob comes walking up the pier to inspect the boat and talk about financing their trip. The boys are nervous and are waiting next to their vessel with their hats in their hands. Uncle Bob, an experienced entrepreneur who became rich from selling office furniture, looks at the ship approvingly and then turns to Bob and says:

“Why didn’t you build an airplane?”

Bob is speechless. He looks at his partners for help but they seem to just stand there – staring into the distance – as dumbfounded as he is. They all seem to realize it that instant; if the only goal was to cross the ocean, an airplane would have been a much more efficient way of doing it!

But there they are, standing at the end of the pier next to a shiny new boat, with no supplies, with their hats in their hands.

After Uncle Bob leaves, the three partners retreat to the nearest bar for an emergency meeting, and a few beers. Deep down they understand that the obvious thing to do, the only sensible thing really, is to forget about the boat, start all over and just build an airplane.

But Jack was looking forward to the trip and his role as skipper, and Bob spend so much time polishing the hull, and Jim has learned everything there was to know about currents, ocean navigation and the weather that they just can’t bring themselves to even suggest doing that.

So they decide to take what they have, and adapt to the new circumstances. They take all the components from the old plan and try to apply them to the new plan. This is what they ended up with:


  1. Cool metaphor and drawing :)

  2. If he was a real entrepreneur, he would have made it with the boat…

  3. Hehe, that’s ‘the finger on the sensitive spot’.

  4. Before you know it, you can create a great book for children form stories like these. This may teach entrepreneurial wisdom at an early age.

    Excellent story, looking forward to more.

    ~ Stephan


  1. links for 2008-09-07 « Breyten’s Dev Blog - [...] The Flying Boat at Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (tags: buiness entrepreneur metaphor) [...]
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