Tribe 365 – Christopher Columbus: Driven but Directionless

25 September 2018

Christopher Columbus’s legacy is a contentious one. His accidental ‘discovery’ of the Americas (technically the Vikings, under Erik the Red, found America first) in 1492 opened the way for colonisation, eventually destroying many of the original Mesoamerican cultures and tribes that came before the European colonies. However, what can’t be denied about Columbus is that he was ambitious and driven.

Born in the Republic of Genoa, Columbus was in the right place at the right time. The Mediterranean maritime states were looking for new trade routes to the lucrative East, namely India, China and the various South Asian kingdoms like the Majapahit Empire that offered valuable spices like black pepper.

Columbus was largely self-educated: his experiences at sea began at a young age and he taught himself the fundamentals of geography, astronomy and history. Understanding geography and astronomy was essential for nautical navigation. Based on his own knowledge of world geography, he thought that travelling west across the Atlantic would take him straight to the Indies.

Of course, we now know that this presumption was extremely optimistic: there were two oceans between Europe and America, separated by a vast landmass we now call the Americas. Before the Panama Canal was constructed, the only route past the Americas was going through the Drake Passage at the foot of South America.   

The Journey to the New World

After getting the permission of the Spanish Crown, Columbus set off in 1492 to find the route to Asia that everybody was looking for; across the Atlantic. Fraught with danger, this was one of the first transoceanic voyages ever attempted: as a result, the conditions on Columbus’s ship were intolerable to the crews.

Storms threw the boat back and forth. Food supplies would run low on a frequent basis on top of the nutritional deficiencies and diseases that many sailors faced. Columbus’s contact with the natives on what is now Cuba and Hispaniola frequently turned violent. After leaving some men behind to found the first colony of the New World, Columbus returned to the Old.

What He Could Have Done Better

It should be obvious that Columbus didn’t know about modern management teachings like team building, recognising quirks and differences in his crew and creating a true tribe that would have gotten him closer to the Indies.

This, and many other activities and thought-provoking exercises are part of our Tribe 365 programme. To get the best results from your team, you require an understanding of how your employees tick, what they excel at, and how to get the most out of those skills while minimising the weaker parts. If you have employees are new and untested, perhaps Tribe 365 will be the programme for you.