Gary Hibberd


We are living in challenging times, but one day this will be over, and we’ll have time to reflect on what happened, and what part we played in it.

This desire to understand how people cope in a crisis is one of the reasons many (like me) are still fascinated by the story of the RMS Titanic. A ship that sailed into history on 14th April 1912.

RMS Titanic; It’s a name most of us have heard of at some point, and while many will know the broad outline of the story, some of the details can be easily forgotten. But worryingly, so can some of the lessons too, and I firmly believe these lessons have something to teach us today, as we go through this current crisis.


A Brief History of a Titanic Tragedy

If you’re not too familiar with the story then read on;  On the 10th April 1912, 108 years ago the RMS set sail from Southampton UK on her maiden voyage to New York, USA.  However, on the 14th April the 46,328 tonne steamer collided with an iceberg.

2,228 People were on board that night, when finally on the 15th April at 2:20am 1,523 men, women and children lost their lives as the RMS Titanic slipped below the waves. Just 705 people survived.

The RMS Titanic was the crowning achievement of man’s dominance over nature.  Nothing had ever been built so big, or so lavish.  She was described as a ‘floating palace’, and she contained some of the worlds wealthiest individuals. Many of whom perished that night, along with some of the worlds poorest.  It seems nature and destiny have no interest in what your bank balance is. This was true in 1912, and it’s still true now.


What are the lessons?

There are many lessons that the Titanic story has to offer; Some practical, some philosophical.


Lesson 1; Don’t be blind to the ‘impact’ of risks.

Man believed he had conquered the oceans, and therefore practically nothing could stop the progress of men. The people who designed the Titanic had originally asked for more lifeboats, but the owners (White Starline) pointed to the regulations and said: “We don’t need them.” (which was technically true, as regulations had not been updated in line with engineering advancements).

Lesson for today; The Owners were ‘going by the book’, but not considering the real impact of a ship hitting an object. Thereby needing to rescue all the passengers and crew on board. 

So ask yourself; If X happens, what is the impact? And how can we reduce this?


Lesson 2; Training and Awareness are important

While much is made up of the fact that many of the lifeboats left the ship only half full (as many as 300 additional people could have been saved had they all been full).  The fact of the matter was that the crew weren’t trained on how to use the davits that supported the lifeboats.  They also did not follow the same rule.  Some proclaimed “Women and children first!” while others shouted, “Women and children only!”.  Why? Because they hadn’t been trained.

Lesson for today; When did you last train your staff on emergency procedures? Evacuation plans? Data Breach processes? Cyber attacks? When do you think it is a good time to train them? When the boat is sinking or before?


Lesson 3; Understand the real risks

When the RMS Titanic was built she was said to be ‘Practically Unsinkable’, because she was designed with watertight compartments, and had more lifeboats than the regulations at the time required (even though it wasn’t enough for everyone on board).  Every aspect of modern engineering had been brought into play to make her as safe as possible.

Lesson for today; We place our faith in the developers and designers of the software and systems we use. We trust them implicitly. The watertight compartments were designed so that the first 6 compartments could flood should she ever hit something head-on. The systems we use daily are developed by the same minds who never considered a ‘glancing blow’ by an iceberg could sink a ship.  We need to get better at risk assessments.


Lesson 4; Don’t sacrifice Security for commercial gain

The RMS Titanic received 7 warnings of ice in the region throughout the day. Some of these made their way to the bridge. Some of these didn’t reach the Captain, so he wasn’t aware.  But why? Because the priority of the Marconi radio operators wasn’t on safety; it was on sending and receiving messages for the passengers. Commercial imperatives were put before safety.

Lesson for today; How many times do we hear AFTER a Data breach that “Security is of primary importance to us!”? But is that true? With the volume of breaches we see, I very much doubt it. 

In this challenging times it can be tempting to forget about Data Protection and Security, but now more than ever is when we need to be on the look-out for the potential dangers that lay before us.  Action Fraud have reported a 400% increase in Phishing attempts in the last month (all linked to COVID19). 

Yet, many organisations are prioritising commercial objectives over Security, and they are placing themselves and us at risk, that could lead us all to disaster.

Good Cybersecurity and Data Protection doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Focus on the risks, focus on your people, focus on your customers and finally focus on technology.  If you need help, then reach out and ask for it.


Conclusion; History has much to teach us.

These are just a few of the lessons the RMS Titanic has to teach us. I could go on and talk about the heroic actions of many onboard the Titanic, and also the crisis management skills shown by the Captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Ronson, who came to rescue the 705 survivors.  But I will leave it there for now.

However, I will finish by saying that the RMS Titanic story has many parallels with our modern life, and there will be heroes and villains at play. 

In times of stress, fear, uncertainty and doubt, we need strong leaders and leadership. We need a clear vision and understanding of how to protect our lives and our livelihoods.

Now is the time to take control and reach out to your business and wrap (virtual) arms around it, to protect it and those who work with you.

Good luck.

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