When I first presented on the topic of battling Black Swans, a member of the audience asked, "if Black Swans are unknowable beforehand, and I'm short on budget and resources now, isn't it more practical to wait until the Swan lands and then worry about it?" My answer? No. You can't afford to wait. The good news is that preparing to battle future Black Swans is part of getting ahead in the present.
Fifth and Final in the Black Swan Series:
In this series, I explore how you can battle a Black Swan and win. This post answers why preparing for a possible future Black Swan helps your business grow today.
The last thing most businesses have time for is worrying about something that hasn't happened yet. Why waste the time and resources? Here are a few reasons:
Planning for the Future Enables You to Battle Today's Black Swans
Inflation. War. Sweeping privacy law changes. Quantum computing. Most of us are battling the outcomes of these current Black Swans right now - they're one of the reasons you're too busy to think about the future. Establishing a workflow that acknowledges and enables the battle helps you today, in addition to being in a better position for the next Black Swan.
"The future has a way of arriving unannounced." - George Will
Black Swan Readiness Creates Today's Competitive Advantages
Because the specifics of a future Black Swan are unknown, it's not actually the Black Swan you plan for. Rather, you become ready by understanding your customers and why they buy from you and not others - today. You enhance those strengths with the product and marketing decisions you make - today. And, by listening not only to current product users but also the network and ecosystem in which you interact, you become a more sophisticated and innovative product provider - today.
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" - Graham Chapman, Monty Python's Flying Circus
Fragility Kills Businesses - With or Without a Black Swan Event
On the flip side, ignoring aspects of your product that are known market dissatisfiers creates opportunities for your competitors even without a Black Swan to help them along. Taleb calls such unreadiness "Fragility." Whether it's a confusing pricing model, poor customer service or inconvenient product bundles, known weaknesses will be exploited - if not by a Black Swan, then by a competitor or disruptor. Head off these disasters by solving the problem before you're forced to.
Black Swans and Innovation are the Yin and Yang of Business
Lastly, Taleb asserts (and I agree) that some of the greatest leaps forward in product innovation happened as a result of Black Swans. New technology gives us better ways to solve current market needs, from telemedicine to gaming. Significant changes to the law can drive offerings that are not only compliant but better than before, as we're seeing in today's marketing apps. Even the devastation of war can deliver innovative leaps in pharmaceutical and therapeutic offerings. Treat Black Swans not as potential future time-sucks but opportunities to discover and achieve.
Black Swans are here, and more are coming. You can't wait to react - start battling the Black Swans today to ensure your future and current success.
About the Author
Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product innovation for tech companies through strategic focus and powerful go-to-market strategies. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at email@example.com.