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Combat search and rescue, lock picking and corporate management

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Last week Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, a hybrid climbing and innovation center in Boston Massachusetts held a retreat for its Directors. The company is rapidly expanding and the Executive team is facing all of the standard challenges associated with trying to adapt. From maintaining effective leadership structures, safeguarding culture to figuring out how to empower its Directors to take on an increasing amount of responsibility, the Executive team turned to unconventional wisdom to help shepherd the process.

Tactivate, in conjunction with Brooklyn Boulders, brought in Lou Haack a former Chief Master Sergeant of the US Air force Pararescue Wing at Moffett Airfield in CA. The Chief Master Sergeant is the senior ranking enlisted man, and, is the equivalent of a Chief Operating Officer in a private company, who, instead of traditional business, is tasked with running one of the most forward leaning combat search and rescue units in the world.

​Lou briefed the Directors of Brooklyn Boulders on the importance of remaining dynamic and adaptable. Drawing on war stories, including rescue missions gone somewhat awry, 700 nautical miles off the coast to pick up wounded sailors, Lou made many correlations to the effectiveness and efficiency of a team hinging on the fluidity of human dynamics and how well each team member knows one another. While a seemingly trivial thread, it is amazing to dig in and find out how little co-workers truly know about one another’s strengths, weaknesses, and proclivities even though they work side by side day in and day out. This can be lethal on a rescue mission or for the long-term success of a company.

With scaling, comes systemic change. There is no right way to implement the perfect set of systems off the bat, and trial and error is very much a part of the process to nailing effective management systems. To clue the Directors into the idea of remaining solution focused and pro-active about helping to usher in improvements, Tactivate ran a micro-workshop on lock picking and escape and evasion.

The skills associated with lock picking and escaping from flex-cuffs, the heavy duty zip ties sometimes used as restraints are very applicable to management. It is not the mechanical skills that are relevant, but the notion of learning to change perspective on viewing what most would consider insurmountable obstacles, creating a shift to seeing opportunity instead.

There are many things in the workplace that can be perceived as obstacles. But there are ways to facilitate rapid, positive paradigm shifts to get leadership to view pre-conceived obstacles as nothing more than fun challenges that present opportunity for change and unlocking potential. Teaching someone to pick a lock with simple tools or to escape from restraints with very basic methods is an incredible way to make this concept a glaring reality. With a little finesse, some simple but empowering hard skills, and the right leadership to get your team to take a look at things a little differently – the results can be breathtaking.

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