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Summary: Who Rocked the Boat? A Story about Navigating the Inevitability of Change by Curtis Bateman


Change typically makes people uncomfortable, even when it’s necessary. Disruption creates insecurity, uncertainty and often fear. But knowledge is power, and that’s precisely what FranklinCovey Senior Change Consultant Curtis Bateman offers: a knowledgeable guide to navigating disruptive change. The process of changing becomes far less intimidating once you understand the predictable pattern of change and how people respond to it. Bateman illustrates the principles of change using a metaphorical river journey that becomes adventurous. When ships fly, you’ll see change in an entirely different light.


  • Leaders who are adept at storytelling can help employees navigate disruptive change.
  • In this parable, a crisis upsets a serene voyage.
  • Each person will have an individual reaction to change.
  • The good ship Results plunges into unchartered waters.
  • The situation weighs heavily on the crew’s minds and bodies.
  • The crew scales new heights with an innovative solution.
  • Change provides fertile ground for discussion and contemplation.
  • Identifying predictable patterns and reactions can lessen stress.
  • Chart a path toward a new way of thinking.

Book Summary: Who Rocked the Boat? - A Story about Navigating the Inevitability of Change


Leaders who are adept at storytelling can help employees navigate disruptive change.

Storytelling is a reliably effective method for conveying the principles, practices and upheavals that affect people and organizations. Though major changes usually feel tumultuous and unpleasant, they follow a consistent pattern. Understanding how that process of change unfolds will help you manage transitions in various circumstances, whether you’re leading a company, taking charge of a team or forging a new direction in life.

“Change success isn’t simply a rigidly followed process or communication plan; it’s first about people.”

Acknowledging how change unfolds makes you less likely to blame others for “rocking the boat” and creating chaos.Finding fault is counter-productive. Successful change occurs when people commit to collaborate on an effective strategy for the shifting currents ahead.

In this parable, a crisis upsets a serene voyage.

The captain and his mates were enjoying calm waters and pleasant surroundings as they floated down the river aboard their ship Results. They needed to navigate past a mountain to reach their destination and unload their cargo. The crew members had been together for a while and knew each other’s tendencies. Move, the engineer, kept the steam engine functioning smoothly. Chief Mate Minimize was in charge of the cargo. Resist, the second mate, focused on safety. Wait, a deckhand, helped wherever he was needed. And the twin brothers Quits and Quit took turns piloting the ship.

“Everyone expected a smooth journey – the waterway was gentle, the scenery pleasant, and the skies clear and comforting.”

The ever-energetic Move thought the uneventful journey provided a good opportunity for the crew to brush up on their skills and “learn something new.” Resist objected to working harder for the same money. Quits agreed with Resist, saying it wasn’t worth adding stress to an easy trip.

Each person will have an individual reaction to change.

Suddenly, the river’s current sped up, and the crew heard a loud rumbling. The captain, suspecting a waterfall ahead, ordered everyone to put on their life jackets.

The crew members each had different reactions to the crisis. Move started shoveling more coal into the boilers, hoping to arrive at the waterfall sooner to savor the excitement. Minimize preferred doing the least he could and waited to see how events unfolded. Resist wanted to stop, frightened that the waterfall could wreck the ship.

“Before they could swing the boat around, the swift current pulled them into a rushing, churning rapid.”

Quits wished everyone luck, jumped into the water and swam for shore. Quit wasn’t sure if the jungle was a safer alternative. Instead of following his brother overboard, he retreated from the helm and grasped the rail. When he told the captain he saw no point in steering in the swirling water, the captain took the wheel.

The good ship Results plunges into unchartered waters

The ship plunged down the waterfall and crashed into a pool of water below. Some crew members flew overboard into the river. Those still onboard threw life preserves to the crew members who were swimming. Results stayed afloat, drifting with the current despite having suffering serious damage. Resist asked the captain what they should do. The captain reassured everyone by explaining with confidence that they could overcome this unexpected challenge together. Move welcomed the opportunity, but his shipmates didn’t share his enthusiasm.

“I know this is not what any of us expected, but we’ll figure it out together.”

When the ship came to rest on the beach, Minimize proposed searching along the shore to see where the large pool became a river again. The captain explained the cargo had to go back up the mountain and then to port.

Quit didn’t care if the cargo spoiled. He wanted to get out of there. Resist, full of sarcasm, mocked the idea of “magically” sailing the ship up the cliff. The captain asked Wait why the crew was reluctant to climb the rock wall. Wait explained that in every crisis he’d ever been through, everyone offers big ideas, but despite all the talk, no one ever worked with anyone else.

The captain spoke with the other crew members. Each had different concerns, but, ultimately, they all wanted to follow a well-designed plan that wouldn’t waste their time. After discussing available options, the captain proposed taking Results apart and transporting the pieces up the mountain. Minimize thought the idea had merit and envisioned a pulley system to make the job easier. Quit and Resist believed it was impossible, yet they conceded that the crew had no other course.

The situation weighs heavily on the crew’s minds and bodies.

The plan called for the crew to dismantle the ship, and then build ladders and climb to the top of the waterfall with the necessary parts for constructing a winch, which they would use to pull all the parts to the top. Then, they would reassemble the ship, put it back in the river and resume their journey. The task was daunting and grueling, especially when the group began scaling the mountain and searching for suitable places to fasten the ladders. They eventually reached the top, but they discovered, after assembling the pulley, that they weren’t strong enough to lift the loads.

“It turned out, much to their dismay, that Quit had been right all along. The parts were too heavy.”

Quit couldn’t resist the urge to tell the crew he had predicted this failure. Move chose to look at the positives. He believed the entire crew deserved credit for getting this far. The captain concurred. When they gave the situation a little more thought, the crew saw that their problem-solving skills had improved. Buoyed by new feelings of confidence, they decided to repurpose the ship’s steam engine to power the pulley. They were strong enough to hoist the boiler parts to the top, assemble the pieces and begin the conversion.

“The captain smiled, noting it had been some time since they had a win like that. A very long time, in fact.”

The crew yelled in delight and exchanged high-fives when the steam engine began easily turning the pulley. They made repeated trips up and down the rock face to retrieve their ladders. The captain had underestimated the difficulty of scaling the cliff, but the crew’s unified effort worked.

The crew scales new heights with an innovative solution.

Everyone was in a celebratory mood. The captain complimented each crew member on his individual ideas, efforts and contributions. Everyone sought to figure out the best way to proceed. Quit thought they should leave some cargo behind. Move thought he could modify the engines to produce more power. A speedier ship on a river with twists and turns was a bad idea, said Resist. The captain agreed, adding that perhaps they could somehow circumvent the river.

“What an amazing crew you are! It’s great to be back on track, but we sure lost a lot of time.”

What about an airship? Wait wondered. The captain looked over the piles of parts on the grass and saw the possibilities. With a few modifications, he thought, the crew could build a ship that flew instead of floating. They fashioned the sails into a balloon, set up the boilers to heat the air in the balloon for liftoff, repositioned the propellors and used the rudders as fins. The ship rose up as Quit, standing at the helm, turned the craft toward its destination. The crew had demonstrated resiliency, teamwork and innovation. Now they were soaring.

Change provides fertile ground for discussion and contemplation

The story of the good ship Results and its crew offers an opportunity to discuss and contemplate the effects of change on individuals, teams and organizations. Use the following prompts to explore your personal feelings about change:

  • Think of a change you’ve undergone. Were you responsible for placing your boat in the water or were you reacting to an external factor?
  • How do you picture your change scenario after you scale the cliff?
  • Do you have the motivation to reach the top?
  • What would make the climb more palatable or possible?
  • Which reaction among the crew members most closely resembles your likely reaction in a similar situation?
  • Does your reaction make you comfortable or uncomfortable?
  • If you were on the beach, what concerns would you have expressed to the captain?

The prompts below will provide insight into change from a team and organizational perspective:

  • What feels comfortable and reliable about your normal “river routine?” What aspects of this change journey seem stagnant and boring? Will the proposed changes in the operation address those issues?
  • Who is in your boat, and who will experience change? Are any upper-level administrators going on the journey? Could any of them assist in scaling the cliff?
  • Do you have everything you need to climb the rock face? What other resources could you use?
  • Are well-informed about the journey? What five questions could you ask the captain that would help him lead the crew successfully?

Identifying predictable patterns and reactions can lessen stress.

The voyage of Results depicts the typical patterns and stages of transformational change. Change is not ambiguous; it’s predictable. That means you can familiarize yourself with the process, and that will enable you to formulate and execute a solid plan to enable healthy, productive change. Understanding change allows you to “preempt fear” and devise a successful strategy.

“While change is a constant and driving force, it doesn’t have to be a mystery.”

Change is necessary for progress. Although everyone experiences change differently, the following reactions are the most common:

  • “Move” – Embraces change and enthusiastically dive into action.
  • “Minimize” – Isn’t a change proponent and won’t go beyond what’s expected of him or her.
  • “Wait” – Hesitates to act until others begin changing.
  • “Resist” – Doesn’t favor change. Encourages others, in public or privately, to fight any new course.
  • “Quit” – Leaves the situation or stays and doesn’t participate.

The captain, or leader, must fight the temptation to regard change as a regimented process he or she must march the team through with maximum efficiency. People should always be the leader’s number one priority, whether you’re dealing with your reactions or guiding others through change and toward a goal.

Chart a path toward a new way of thinking.

The “Change Model” describes the four transitional stages, or zones, of change. With this knowledge, you can identify your current position and know better what to expect moving forward:

  • “Status Quo” – You’re comfortable with your daily routine, though change is around the corner. Now is the ideal time to plan for the disturbance that is coming up.
  • “Disruption” – You’re heading down the waterfall toward chaos and unfamiliarity. You wonder what’s happening and why.
  • “Adoption” – Things are different now. You’ll need to make major adjustments to regain your footing. Your efforts may come up short, but you must keep pressing forward to find solutions.
  • “Innovation” – You achieve equilibrium and open your mind to new, exciting possibilities. You adapt and embrace unconventional thinking. You are a successful change agent.

About the Author

Curtis Bateman is a senior change consultant for FranklinCovey and vice president of international direct offices.


“Who Rocked the Boat? A Story about Navigating the Inevitability of Change” by Curtis Bateman is a thought-provoking book that delves into the challenges and opportunities that arise from inevitable changes in life. Through a captivating narrative, the author explores the concept of change, its impact on individuals and organizations, and provides valuable insights on how to navigate through transitions successfully. Bateman’s book serves as a guide for readers seeking to embrace change and leverage it as a catalyst for personal and professional growth.

The book follows the adventures of four characters who embark on a river rafting trip, each with their own personality, background, and attitude towards change. Along the way, they encounter various challenges and opportunities that test their skills, beliefs, and relationships. They also learn valuable lessons from their guide, who teaches them the principles and practices of change-proof leadership. These include:

  • How to identify and embrace one’s passion and purpose
  • How to overcome fear and failure
  • How to adapt and thrive in changing circumstances
  • How to think differently and challenge assumptions
  • How to collaborate and communicate effectively
  • How to manage one’s time and energy
  • How to learn from feedback and criticism
  • How to improve one’s skills and knowledge
  • How to experiment and innovate
  • How to be original and authentic
  • How to tell stories and engage one’s audience
  • How to use humor and playfulness
  • How to be curious and ask questions
  • How to be flexible and adaptable
  • How to be persistent and resilient
  • How to be confident and optimistic
  • How to be grateful and generous
  • How to be ethical and responsible
  • How to make an impact and a difference

In “Who Rocked the Boat? A Story about Navigating the Inevitability of Change,” Curtis Bateman demonstrates his expertise in addressing the complex subject of change. The book offers a refreshing approach by presenting its ideas through a captivating story, making it an engaging and relatable read. Rather than relying solely on theoretical concepts, Bateman combines narrative elements with practical advice, creating a more immersive and impactful experience for readers.

Who Rocked the Boat? by Curtis Bateman is a thought-provoking book that delves into the challenges and complexities of navigating change in our lives. With its engaging storytelling and insightful wisdom, this book provides a valuable guide for individuals and organizations grappling with the inevitability of change.

  • Engaging storytelling: Curtis Bateman has crafted a compelling narrative that captivates the readers from the very beginning. The story follows the journey of the main character as they navigate through various personal and professional changes, making it relatable and easy to connect with.
  • Practical insights: One of the highlights of this book is the practical insights it offers to help readers understand and embrace change. Bateman skillfully combines real-life examples, anecdotes, and practical tips to provide readers with actionable strategies for adapting to change and overcoming obstacles.
  • Emotional depth: The author effectively explores the emotional aspects of change, acknowledging the fears, uncertainties, and resistance that often accompany transitions. By delving into the characters’ emotions, the book offers a realistic portrayal of the human experience during times of change, making it a truly immersive read.
  • Well-researched: It is evident that Bateman has conducted thorough research to support the concepts and ideas presented in the book. The incorporation of studies, expert opinions, and relevant data adds credibility and depth to the principles discussed.
  • Clarity of writing: The writing style is clear, concise, and accessible, making it suitable for readers of all backgrounds. Bateman avoids unnecessary jargon and presents complex ideas in a straightforward manner, ensuring that the book is easy to follow and comprehend.
  • Practical exercises and reflection: Throughout the book, the author provides practical exercises and reflection prompts that encourage readers to apply the concepts to their own lives. These tools enhance the learning experience and facilitate personal growth and self-awareness.
  • Inspirational and motivational: Who Rocked the Boat? inspires readers to embrace change as an opportunity for growth and transformation. By sharing stories of resilience and success, Bateman instills a sense of hope and motivation, empowering readers to navigate their own journeys of change with confidence.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its ability to resonate with a wide range of readers. Whether you’re an individual experiencing personal changes or a leader navigating organizational transitions, “Who Rocked the Boat?” provides valuable insights and strategies to help you navigate the challenges that come with change. Bateman’s storytelling effortlessly connects readers with the characters, allowing them to empathize with their struggles and triumphs. This connection fosters a deeper understanding of the principles and lessons conveyed throughout the narrative.

Bateman’s writing style is clear, concise, and accessible, ensuring that the book is easily digestible for readers of all backgrounds. The author’s expertise in the subject matter shines through his well-researched content, which is presented in a manner that is both informative and engaging. The book strikes an excellent balance between theory and practicality, offering concrete strategies and tools that readers can apply in their own lives.

Moreover, “Who Rocked the Boat?” encourages readers to embrace change as an opportunity for growth rather than a daunting obstacle. Bateman emphasizes the importance of adaptability, resilience, and open-mindedness when facing inevitable transitions. By sharing relatable stories and real-world examples, the author inspires readers to view change as a catalyst for personal and professional development.

One aspect that sets this book apart is its emphasis on self-reflection and introspection. Bateman prompts readers to examine their own beliefs, fears, and attitudes towards change. Through thought-provoking questions and exercises, he encourages readers to delve deep into their own experiences and consider how they can harness the power of change to achieve their goals.

If there’s one potential drawback to “Who Rocked the Boat?,” it’s that the narrative format might not appeal to readers who prefer a more straightforward and analytical approach to self-help books. However, for those seeking an engaging and relatable exploration of the topic, the book’s storytelling style is a definite asset.

In conclusion, “Who Rocked the Boat? A Story about Navigating the Inevitability of Change” is a valuable resource for anyone facing or anticipating transitions in their lives. Curtis Bateman provides a compelling narrative that not only entertains but also educates and inspires readers to embrace change and use it as a catalyst for growth. This book is highly recommended for individuals, leaders, and organizations seeking guidance on navigating the complexities of change in today’s fast-paced world.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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