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  • Writer's pictureDiane Pierson

Black Swan Series: You Need a Team to Battle Black Swans

Second in the Black Swan Series:

Imagine – tomorrow you wake up and there’s no internet. None. No Zoom, no Slack, no Outlook. What do you do? How do you communicate with your team? With your customers?

In this series, I explore how you can battle a Black Swan and win. This post is about putting together your Swan Slayer Team.

I’ve had folks ask me, “If we can’t predict Black Swans and every one of them is unique, how can we possibly put together a team to battle them?” The answer? You don’t need to know what the Black Swan will be, to be ready to battle it.

How to Create a Battle-Ready Swan Slayer Team

First, everyone in the organization should be able to report possible Black Swans to the Swan Slayer Team. This should be a simple workflow using your everyday communication tools, but make sure you have more than one reporting channel in case the Black Swan is, in fact, the internet being down.

Black Swan and Innovation Market Strategy

Funnel all potential Black Swans to a standing Swan Slayer team. My recommendations for assembling your Swan Slayer team include:

  • Appoint senior cross-functional representatives chosen by the company owners but not the company owners. This is a stage-gate team.

  • Keep the team as small as possible without creating a blind spot.

  • Members should be creative thinkers, engaged employees and precise communicators.

  • Allow time for them to pay attention to the role. It’s a big deal.

Black Swan Innovate on Purpose

The Swan Slayers review sightings and brainstorm possible risks for your business. They then decide whether to monitor or alert the Approval Team.

Embed an Escalation Process

The escalation acts as a check on the Swan Slayers, but also makes leadership aware that resources, reprioritization or media messaging may be needed - fast. The Approval Team should be VERY senior – able to speak for the company and owners, with authority to make strategic cross-functional resourcing and prioritization decisions.

Black Swan and Innovate on Purpose

If the Approval Team decides to respond to the Black Swan, action should be quick, but deliberate. The right team should be assembled and act to deliver specific market and business outcomes based on what’s known right now, then use quick cycles of experimentation and market input to iterate as the situation evolves.

You can’t know what Black Swan is going to land next, but you can be ready to mobilize around the risk if you have a team and workflow in place.

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


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