Ever since I moved into the resilience world to work on all-things-pandemic, I’ve been dusting off all of my old crisis management books.
But perhaps the pandemic has made me lazy, because instead of buying more books I’ve started watching YouTube videos. I’ve especially enjoyed looking at Dr. David Hillson’s videos to extract key lessons from his career in risk management. He boils it down to three questions:
- What are your objectives?
- What events in the future might positively or negatively impact your goals?
- Which event scenarios are most likely and most important to you?
These questions enable you to craft a strategy for how you’ve chosen to manage your objectives and their associated positive and negative risks in a prioritized manner. It’s traditionally impossible to plan for every, and any, thing that can happen to you, so having a strategy for certain situations will let you place your bets accordingly.
When something unexpected happens, our so-called “fight or flight” response makes it awfully hard to think straight.
I say “traditionally impossible” because technology is changing the game in the resilience world. I promise to touch upon that point before the end of this post, but first let’s complete Dr. Hillson’s list of questions:
- What actions will you take in those event scenarios?
- The event(s) happened. How well did you manage the event(s)?
- After managing the event, has anything changed?
These latter three questions are about taking action in response to an event that happens to you. Because you’ve done your preparation with the first three questions, you can reach for a binder on the shelf where you’ve carefully planned response to the event. Why is it so important to think this out and document it ahead of time? Because when something unexpected happens, our so-called “fight or flight” response makes it awfully hard to think straight.
When we’re surprised, the amygdala in our brain shoots off a “red alert” signal to the hypothalamus; subsequently our body gets pumped with adrenaline to take on the unexpected and switch into Jason Bourne mode. That’s why, if you’ve ever entered your house in darkness and the lights suddenly came on and everyone yelled “Surprise — happy birthday!”, you were both bewildered and ready to punch someone. Your ability to think becomes compromised in that moment. Fortunately you’ve prepared for this by seeing lots of surprise parties, so you’re able to calmly reach for the “It’s My Birthday” binder on your mental shelf and follow your pre-prepared plan: 1/ smile and look happily surprised, 2/ reach for the first glass of champagne, and 3/ mingle with everyone while you let the adrenaline rush subside.
In the risk management world, the first three questions are referred to as “before bang” and the latter go by the “after bang” terminology. That can come across as a little dark because the “bang” can imply a shooting or explosion, but I like to think of it as the starting gun of a race. Or you can use my example of a surprise party, but keep in mind that the crisis management world is a serious business that often impacts human lives. For that reason, I’ve found it to be the most meaningful chapter of my career so far.
One example of a common resilience technology is All-Wheel Drive (AWD) in automobiles — when it snows heavily, you can always go to the store to get your toothpaste, whereas your neighbor without AWD might need to stay home with bad breath.
However, when human lives are not at stake, and instead you’re a business that’s seeking to understand how its risk gets managed in ways that generate rewards, it’s a whole other ballgame. It’s not crisis management. It’s risk management with a business spin. It’s preparing for a black swan that could be negative or positive. Dr. Hilton’s list of six questions speaks to me not only because of his excellent TV announcer delivery, but because he makes you think about how managing risk isn’t only about the bad things that happen. Recall from my last post how a “black swan” doesn’t imply something bad. There can be positive black swans that you’re certain to get positively excited about — like winning the state lottery after trying for decades, or finding a four-leaf clover in your front lawn.
How do businesses end up in this more generative space of managing risks towards rewards? Are there technologies that can enable such outcomes to more reliably happen? It turns out there are all manner of “resilience technologies” out there that I hadn’t really considered before. Businesses that adopt these technologies are more resilient to calamities, and better equipped to defeat their competition when the going gets tough.
One example of a common resilience technology is All-Wheel Drive (AWD) in automobiles — when it snows heavily, you can always go to the store to get your toothpaste, whereas your neighbor without AWD might need to stay home with bad breath. Some resilience technologies are quite simple, for example the facemask, which makes us more resilient to contracting COVID-19 than someone whose chooses not to wear one. It also lets you get out of your house and get a few things done, instead of just sitting at your computer all day. Resilience technologies are what fulfill the spirit of that famous saying by computing pioneer and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper:
“A ship in harbor is safe. But that’s not what ships are for.”
I’m really just starting to understand the building blocks of technologies that enable greater business resilience. And the new 2021 CX Report officially kicks off the shared understanding that I hope to get started.
About the 2021 CX Report for SXSW
Marc Andreessen’s audacious “software eats the world” (2011) thesis has switched in Tech to a more down-to-earth “safety eats the world” mentality in the wake of SXSW20’s cancellation. In “2021 CX Report: Safety Eats the World” I gathered the trends for greater human safety in the workplace and at home in experience design and technology for both private and public sectors. I also shared my emerging insights from moving into the critical event management space to tackle current and future negative black swan events with technology and design. There were guest cameo appearances on stage by Annie Jean-Baptiste, Bon Ku M.D., Wendy Johansson, Mea Cole Tefka, Alison Rand, Alexis Lloyd, Julie Finkelstein, Justin McElderry, Kevin Bethune, Ijeoma Azodo M.D., Kat Holmes, Teema Kabba. Learn more at the 2021 CX Report microsite — now live.