It baffles me that, as an industry, we seem preoccupied with churning over the same old discourse time and again; the same faces talking about the same issues.
Peter Economides is the antithesis of that concept; this branding expert, and behavioural psychologist, lit up The Superyacht Design Forum with a session exploring the future-thinking concepts the industry must explore to secure its future.
Interestingly, as his dynamic presentation, which drew universal awe among attendees, affirmed, discussions within yachting tend to centre on a dissection of current client profiles and their spending habits.
But, simply put, this is myopic thinking. Many of these active owners are of retirement age and beyond, and approaching their yachting ownership dotage. Contrastingly, the explosion of vast millennial wealth - Economides pointed to 26-year-old Evan Spiegel of Snapchat fame - represent the industry’s future. And yet, almost none of them are preoccupied with the financial triggers that their forebears are.
Economides highlighted how challenging current concepts, such as overt wealth, unnecessary power, oversized vessels and vast staterooms, may not seem logical now, but will inform us about how to snare the clients of the future. And as his presentation of the shift in behaviour among this new generation highlighted, this will require the industry to ask some fairly fundamental questions.
These questions were, in many ways, addressed in a more practical way by James Roy, principal of Lateral Naval Architects. Roy applied this disruptive thinking to the concept of engineering - the ‘search for answers’; ‘innovation [being] a new answer to an old question’; with, his company, Lateral, being ‘an answer to a new question’.
Roy’s point, that the industry has become preoccupied with working towards some sort of artisanal zenith, overlooks the need to build a boat that an owner actually wants. This, as Roy said, is driven by industry stakeholders, who unwittingly, or at times insidiously, push clients towards what the existing conception of a yacht is.
It’s impossible to disagree with Roy’s position - that there has been a tendency to slip back into a cycle of predictability. But equally, as he said on stage, there is no point innovating for the sake of it; to the contrary, innovation for nothing more than the sake of it, is actually just novelty.
Roy highlighted a pertinent point within the industry: “there’s a lot of conversation, and positive words, but when we all go back to our day jobs, it’s business as usual.”
So, how does discourse become tangible action and output? It might sound pithy, but it involves eschewing the status quo, and being brave enough to embrace disruptive ideas, which for too long, have been dismissed by the yachting elite as novelties of tacky. That’s an updated maxim, and the companies that do will be at the vanguard of the new frontier. And from Roy’s rhetoric, it seems like Lateral is in a good position to do that.
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