In his imaginative keynoter at TMW Systems’recent user group conference, company president David Wangler argued convincingly that success is driven not only by mastering digits and data, but also by envisioning—and, above all, acting on-- that which cannot yet be seen.
“Information alone is not enough to move us forward, either as an industry or as a society,” Wangler rightly stated.“Humans are very susceptible to ideas,” he stress, “especially to big ideas that are well communicated or that tap into our deepest fears and desires…
“This capacity to dream, to develop and communicate vision, as well as to follow it, is one of the most powerful aspects of human nature,” Wangler continued. “As business people, we should always be aware of the human need to dream of better things for our families and for ourselves…. Understanding the power of dreams and a good vision can help us to be more effective leaders.”
TMW Systems president David Wangler
To concretely make his point, Wangler relayed a bit of history to the audience.
He related that back during Thanksgiving week of 1937, the owner of a small North Carolina-based trucking firm hauled a load of export cotton up to a merchant ship moored in New York’s harbor that was bound for Istanbul. The trucker then waited days as longshoremen transferred the cotton-- one bale at a time-- from his rig into the hold of the ship.
“In those days, a cargo ship would typically spend as much time in port being loaded and unloaded, as it did in transit,” Wangler pointed out. “To make matters worse, it was hard to predict how long this manual loading or unloading operation would take. This played havoc with the sailing schedules – so outbound cargo was often delivered to a pier days or weeks ahead of the presumed sailing date, increasing the chances for damage or theft.”
Frustrated as he was forced to hang out at the dock, the North Carolinian hatched an idea.
As Wangler told it, “his idea started with the vision of hoisting his entire truck aboard a ship-- and then using it [again] for delivery at the other end. This trucker didn’t know it yet, but he’d begun to think about the implications of intermodalism, a word that couldn’t even be found in a 1937 dictionary.
“Of course, his vision had to be shaped and refined and it didn’t happen overnight - it took almost 20 years,” he continued. Then one day in 1956, a vessel dubbed the “Ideal X’ left port in New Jersey, bound for Houston.
“Observers on the shore could see that the Ideal X was a modified cargo ship with a special raised deck,” said Wangler. “On the deck were 58 longitudinal slots holding truck trailers. But these weren’t conventional trailers in any sense— the 58 trailers had been detached from their chassis and had become containers.
“Arriving in Houston six days later, the 58 containers were hoisted off the Ideal X, attached to empty chassis on the pier and hauled to their destinations without a single piece of cargo being touched by longshoremen,” he related.
Wangler then revealed that the trucker was none other than Malcom McLean, whose trucking operation grew into Sea-Land Services, which became one of the world’s largest global shipping operations. “The vision of a North Carolina truck driver who was tired of waiting around played a critical role in allowing the world’s economy to assume truly global dimensions.”
Summing up, Wangler declared that “People can have personal visions, the dreams that guide our daily decisions toward some future outcome.
“But,” he added, bringing home his main theme, “a vision that is communicated and shared with others can become something truly powerful, the means to transform an idea or an unrelated group of people into a force for positive change.”