The Right Way, The Wrong Way, and Your Way

My grandfather Anchor Jensen was a master shipwright, boat builder, and mentor and as a pre-teenager, I found myself working summers and school breaks at Jensen Motorboat Company, learning what that really meant.

He was a quiet and reserved but carried a powerful essence to him, confident in what he was there to do and providing a life of experience to those that came along his path.

You cannot see the wind, but you see the wind reflected in the trees.

As a pre-teenager, the general manager explained my grandfather in a way that I still think about repeatedly to this day:

“There’s the right way, the wrong way, and then there’s Anchor’s way, a little bit different and better than the right way…And never smoke cigarettes.” he said while dragging on his cigarette. Beautiful words delivered through a cloud of smoke.

After my grandfather died and me still a teenager, new management previously mentored by my grandfather took over Jensen Motorboat Company. After a few 40-hour summer weeks sanding wooden boats and continuing to learn the art of attention to detail, our General Manager said:

“Let’s teach you some skills. Go build a box.”

“How” I said.

“Figure it out.”

And so I did. I found a piece of mahogany. I measured repeatedly until I had the courage to cut. And I built the box. I sanded, varnished, sanded, varnished over-and-over again until I had the perfect imperfect coat and shine.

Wood is flexible and imperfect in its form. It requires the ability to see it for what it is and what it could be – to recognize the knots and the undulations of the grain, visualize the result, and mold it into something.

Years later while onboarding at Baker Hughes, my manager told me “If you have a question, try to figure it out. If you can’t answer it out, Google it. If that doesn’t work, ask me.”

I knew at that moment I was going to love working with him, someone that understood the process of development was not a one-size-fits-all approach and would challenge me to be resourceful and creative, looking upon my own uniqueness.

The “right way” often fails to recognize the uniqueness of the situation, opportunity, and the experience delivered through a new approach.

Up until the 1950's, the sport of hydroplane boat racing was dominated by two-point hulls. The three-point hulls were too aerodynamically perfect and tended to act like a kite at high speeds, causing the boats to do backward summersaults.

In the late 1940's, a team led by Stan Sayers, Ted Jones, and my grandfather Anchor Jensen decided to build a fourth point of suspension, an inverted pyramidal step under the bow, which held the boat tight to the water making high speeds achievable without flipping.

On the morning of the 26th of June 1950, a boat called Slo-Mo-Shun IV hit the water of Lake Washington in Seattle and hit 178.49 MPH, breaking the world speed record set by Sir Malcom Campbell 11 years earlier. The boat went on to win the two major championships that year ushering in the three-point design as the requirement to be competitive for the coming years.

No winner in the 46 years of the Gold Cup had hailed west of Minnesota until a crew of hobbyists and a master shipwright who had never built a race boat before decided to start experimenting.

A little bit different and better than the right way.

There are many that talk about throwing out and starting fresh, but often when you look at technological history, the biggest step-change innovations were hiding in plain sight.

In the capacity of my work, I often have conversations with founders, inventors, CEOs, and management teams with unique technology and products across industries. While writing this, three recent companies came to my mind who are a little bit different and better than the right way:

BioDaf offers water treatment products and end-to-end integration solutions for industrial and municipal clients available across North America. Their BioDaf solution takes a typically 8-hour process and reduces it to 3-minutes, while reducing OPEX and CAPEX by 40%. Their system also has a vastly smaller footprint versus traditional products (< 40%). One recent client reduced water usage 84% after installing the BioDaf solution.

Cleaner, faster, better economics, scalable, and energy efficient.

Utopia Plastix offers an FDA compliant plant-based “plastic” derived from a low maintenance crop that absorbs carbon at 4-5 times the rate of trees and at a lower price than other bioplastics. Utopia Plastix can be blended with fossil fuel derived plastic feedstock in existing supply chains to make those products more sustainable and requires a lower temperature during the production process, reducing energy consumption and wear on machinery.

Cleaner, faster, better economics, scalable, and energy efficient.

(To be discussed at depth in the future) A patented technology that pulls elements from other industries to create sustainable solutions for the mining industry. This solution is focused on helping meet the large minerals demand need required to fulfill the USA’s green energy and electric vehicle goals. When I first discussed this with the inventor, I was floored visualizing how this could really change the entire trajectory of the mining industry.

Cleaner, faster, better economics, scalable, and energy efficient.

When you look at technological history, the biggest step-change innovations were hiding in plain sight. They often appear like items before but bring it together in a way that bridges to a new way forward.

There’s the right way, the wrong way, and your way. If it’s a little bit different and better than the right way, those are the ideas that change the world.

- Matt