A Black Swan, as defined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is an extreme, unforecastable, rare event, a genuine ?no-one could predict this? occurrence.
This epidemic was predictable, and we were warned. Just Google Bill Gates Ted Talk on this!
That said we are facing a global crisis. Maybe the biggest crisis of our generation.
Many things will change far faster than they would have. Given the forced social experiments we are going through, the way we work, create and exchange value will change forever.
Yet right now, many businesses are facing an uncertain future in an entirely predictable crisis! The question is:
?If this was a predictable crisis, why did these businesses not plan for it??
The Tale of Two Businesses!
This may best be answered by this tale I was told of two similar businesses.
Two financial institutions run trading floors that employ large numbers of staff.
The one institution saw what was happening in China and immediately bought the right laptops for all their staff. They set them and tested them over a few weeks. When the lockdown call came, they were ready.
The other institution only started buying laptops after the President announced the lockdown. They had two days to procure hundreds of laptops, load and test the right software, and make sure everyone could connect and work from home. I am not even sure that there were enough laptops to buy.
This was not a Black Swan event. This was entirely predictable!
The only difference between these two institutions is the way they responded to a pattern that was easy to detect. They made a decision. And in the context of what was happening in the world, it was a low-risk decision.
I think a huge blind spot for many businesses has been the ability to look upon from how they are doing things and to look at the world and correlating what?s happening out there with what?s happening internally. This is the inability to look at the bigger system, of which the business is a subset, and understand how things are changing and the impact of change within the broader system.
Coming back to the present, this crisis is speeding up the rate of change. The way our economies work will be redefined in weeks and months rather than years.
This means the way will need to make decisions will change. My point being is actions and results follows the choices we make ? both good or bad.
The significant shift has to be how to make decisions and the speed at which we make them. Perhaps more importantly, will be our openness to look at the trends and patterns that are around us and our willingness to adapt and respond.
The late decision-makers above have learnt a harsh lesson ? They may not survive this. The early decision-makers will probably thrive and go onto bigger things. All they did was respond to a White Swan and adapt.
Finally, to look forward, I think this will open us up to rethinking how we do things, rebuilding the way we contribute and create value. And it will undoubtedly change the way we make things work.
Maybe this is best summarised by Confucius
?The Man Who Asks a Question Is a Fool for a Minute, the Man Who Does Not Ask Is a Fool For Life?