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Van Toorn: It’s not the people going to cocktail parties and playing golf who have the best networks. We use social network analysis tools to identify the quieter, more subtle, more low-key people who are building really competent networks within the organization to share information effectively, to move ideas from one end of the ship to the other. Bringing those people in improves ownership, so the organization doesn’t just have a problem solved, the organization has built a problem-solving capability.
FPM: How did you get into surfing?
Van Toorn: I had been a marathon runner and I was struggling physically with the work. As a teenager I was a watersports guy because I was brought up in Australia, but six years ago, as a result of a project I was doing in Hawaii, I met a couple of amazing people, including a Hawaiian elder who was a lifelong surfer, and I just said I cannot believe I’m not doing this on the West Coast. I turned around, got a paddle surfboard and became obsessed with it.
FPM: What do you get out of surfing?
Van Toorn: The biggest thing I get out of it is that having a relationship with the ocean is a very humbling, but very meaningful life practice. There’s a strong sense of accountability and ownership in surfing that it is up to you and your own performance and mindset to get through what you’re about to go through.
FPM: What if the surf isn’t up?
Van Toorn: The philosophy of a waterman is not to have mastery over one sport, it’s to have mastery over many. When I go surfing, I bring a flat water race board with me so if the surf’s not up, I go explore the coastline. When the surf’s up, I get on a short ripper board and I carve it. If it’s a bigger wave day, I’ll take out a bigger wave board. The relationship is not necessarily with a wave, the relationship is with the ocean and how dynamic the ocean is and how it is so completely unpredictable. It can take everything away immediately.