The Black Swan theory says that… all swans are white, and your Strategic Swan Management Department should cater for a number of white swans, the origins of the white swans, the procurement of white swans and the performance management of white swans. Full stop.
But, suddenly, a black swan appears from nowhere and you haven’t got a clue what to do. How come? Nassim Taleb’s book of the same title is a classic in this area.
Black Swans in financial markets have appeared in some frequency.
The UK Brexit referendum results were a Black Swan.
Donald Trump’s surge, appeal and preposterous twisting of anything plus outrageous threat of not accepting election results (plus his praise of Putin, plus his suggestion of Clinton as a target of the gun lobby, plus…) is a Black Swan. OK, a blond swan.
Seriously, our Prediction of the Future Toolkit is in serious need of an upgrade. Or, you could argue, predictability has become almost impossible. In any scenario, organizations need to figure out forms of rapid reactions and adaptations; plans B, C, D and E. At least.
In my experience, most of the time, my clients don’t take anything seriously beyond a plan B. And just about. Despite recognizing the need to cater for many scenarios, most strategic plans pay lip services to them. Yes, there are dedicated pages to B, C and D plans, but they are immediately forgotten. It’s like those pages of SWOT analysis that ‘must’ be in the Plan but are quickly and swiftly bypassed.
But, Scenario Planning is not new. In fact there were always at least 3 of them: the predictable linear one, the better than expected (optimistic) and the worse (pessimistic). Bayesian analysis, Monte Carlo simulations, they are all there, but not taken seriously.
We seriously need a ‘Black Swan department. These animals seem to breed more and more.