The Black Swan

Some have referred to the current COVID-19 crisis as a “Black Swan.” What is a Black Swan? According to Taleb (2007), a Black Swan has three attributes:

1. It is an outlier.

2. It carries an extreme impact.

3. It is inappropriately rationalized by hindsight.

Other significant events that have been characterized as Black Swans include the 9/11 attacks, the proliferation of the Internet, the introduction of the personal computer, and World War I. The current COVID-19 situation certainly appears to be on track to join this list.

Individuals, families, governments, corporations, and other organizations are currently engaged in sharp learning curves while trying to navigate a path of return to normalcy. Meanwhile, the world-wide death toll continues to rise day-by-day.

Are we destined to suffer the severe consequences of a Black Swan event prior to being able to mitigate its effects? While these events tend to be unpredictable, they are also foreseeable. How do we prepare for such events?

Be Prepared!

As a youth, I was involved in the Scouting program and earned the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. As my son undertook his own journey through Scouting, I also engaged in the program as an adult leader for many years. A basic tenant of Scouting is its motto — “Be Prepared.”

This principle has been quite useful throughout my life. It is also useful for any organization engaging in preparations to deal with emergency planning. Many risk assessment models focus on identifying the most likely risks an organization may face. This will typically result in satisfactory planning efforts, however the Black Swan events may escape consideration during this process. Preparation must go a step beyond and engage in some “outside the box” thinking. Planners must ask, “What are some unexpected worst-case scenarios that would severely impact our organization and its operations?”

Most assuredly, we will emerge from the current world-wide health crisis stronger and more knowledgeable. What will be the next Black Swan event that your organization will face? Do you want to “be prepared” to deal with it and minimize its negative impact? You may want to consider utilizing the services of an independent security consultant to assist you in your emergency planning efforts today.

Remember — Be Prepared!

Taleb, N. N. (2007). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

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