The story begins when The Dolphin dropped anchor in the harbor of a little South Sea island late one summer. It was a beautiful island and the crew fell in love with the place. They fell in love with the native’s way of life . . . with the exotic fruit and flowers
. . . the friendliness of the people, not to mention the beautiful native women. Even the captain seemed to be in no hurry to move on.
After a while, the crew discovered the natives would give anything they had for something the crew thought had little value—iron nails. Though they were almost invisible, it was iron nails that held the wooden ship together. It was nails that kept the decks secure, the hull sturdy, and the keel true.
To the natives, who had to tie things together with crude ropes, iron nails were a form of powerful magic, and no price was too high to acquire them.
One morning the captain of The Dolphin noticed that the decking on the ship was coming up and that the hull was taking on water. He discovered the disintegration was due to nails being missing—so he posted a 24-hour watch against nail thieves.
But it was too late. The ship’s own crew had stripped their vessel of nails to trade with the natives—often for romantic favors from the women on the island.
It was not long before The Dolphin went down, a broken ship, robbed of its integrity and purpose.
One can draw many lessons from such a story. But it is not stretching a point too far to say that what happened to The Dolphin can happen to any organization or person when they let slip away the basic strengths that made them successful in the past, and fail to think of the future.
Source: Kent C. Nelson.