No one knows what's coming next

The book Antifragile is pretty bad. Like most popular management books, it's a single useful idea padded out with anecdotes.

Some organisations are overly reliant on the status quo. If a single thing changes, it can be catastrophic. For example, a sudden shortage of HGV drivers causes their entire supply chain to collapse and they go bankrupt. These organisations are fragile.

Some organisations thrive on chaos. Every time things change, they can take advantage and improve. For example, a sudden lockdown occurs and their distributed and trusted team can leapfrog their competitors. These organisations are antifragile.

They gain from external disruption.

We have to be prepared for change. Constant, relentless, chaotic change. Every thought-leader on LinkedIn and Forbes will tell you what they think is the next big change, but no one really knows.

So! Let's workshop some unlikely events (call 'em "Black Swans") and see what changes they might bring?

The Internet collapsing

We've all had a day when "the email system's fucked" right? Imagine that email stopped around the world! Are you in a position to outperform your competitors because you have tried and tested manual processes? What are your workarounds for disaster? How do they cope with a distributed workforce?

Your business being declared illegal

An existential risk for some industries. This might happen slowly (tobacco) or quickly (dodgy crypto-exchanges). What could you immediately pivot to if needed?

The CEO having a heart attack

The good-old "Bus Factor". At some point your CEO, or lead developer, or person who unlocks the doors in the morning - is going to have a fatal accident. Do you have a succession plan?

Encryption being defeated

Either a flaw in a popular cipher, or a 12 year old in Uzbekistan has accidentally figured out a way to factor prime numbers on a Casio calculator. What business can you do without a way to keep your secrets secret?

Sudden fashion change

"Ugh! No one uses X any more!" declares some influencer. And, just like that, your entire youth market switches to a competitor. Now what?

What next?

The point of these exercises isn't to determine exactly what you would do in those precise circumstances. Think of them like conversation starters - what could we do today in case something like that happened tomorrow?

What are your favourite "unexpected events"?

Share this post on…

3 thoughts on “No one knows what's coming next”

  1. said on

    @Edent Taleb's never really been into practicalities - even the flagship "black swan" event he made so much of, the 2008-> financial crash, was absolutely not unforseeable. There had been plenty of warnings and naysayers going all the way back to the repeal of Glass-Seagall, they just got ignored.Taleb makes bank on spooking people though, and subsequently did a lengthly stint in stirring up dangerous conspiracy theories around genetic engineering and crop science researchers - he's in it for the fearful fandom. Not the anti-collapse expert we need.

    Reply | Reply to original comment on
  2. Chris Barts says:

    The Internet "collapsing" for a long enough time to kill a business doesn't make a lot of sense; or, at least, it only makes sense if you say that enough infrastructure is gone to kill the phone service (landlines and cell phones both) and everything else is so damaged that society isn't going to rebuild it. In which case the business isn't what most people would be worried about.


What are your reckons?

All comments are moderated and may not be published immediately. Your email address will not be published.Allowed HTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> <p> <pre> <br> <img src="" alt="" title="" srcset="">