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  • Rowan Norrie

Black Swan Opportunity

Future planning during the crisis



Disruptive events on a global scale are, thankfully, rare. Like black swans, which were once thought not to exist, they cannot be pre

dicted. However, their impact is felt long after the situation has been brought under control: natural disasters, wars and pandemics can all have an economic and psychological effect.

Resilient individuals and organisations will rise to the challenge, adapt to a new way of life and develop innovations that take advantage of the new norm. For example, Airbnb and Uber came into existence during the last recession, when resources were scarce and the concept of the ‘sharing economy’ came into force.

In addition to the inevitable economic fallout, Covid-19 will undoubtedly lead to changes in habits. For example, many people will find that working from home has definite benefits (less time spent traveling, fewer disruptions), find new ways of connecting and collaborating with others and new ways of thinking and solving problems.

As the biological threat of Covid-19 is brought under control, this black swan event can lead to new opportunities for innovation, for example:

1. New Business Models. For some time, Business Models have been the cornerstone of business innovation. Emerging models that will likely increase in popularity include Peer to Peer (an extension of the sharing economy); From Push to Pull (customers creating a value vortex); Self Service (putting the customer to work), and Increasing Circularity (improving resource management and decreasing waste). I recommend The Business Model Navigator by Oliver Gassman, Karolin Frankenberger and Michaela Csik for insight into new business models.

2. Efficient Use of Scare Resources. When you think of resources, what comes to mind are human capital, finance and assets. However, we need to consider beyond the physical, and think about resources in the wider context – information, time, space and energy. And our focus tends to be within the organisation and from a current perspective. Instead, we should use the Nine-Windows tool , and consider external resources and individual know-how in the past and future. (for more information read The Concept of Resources in TRIZ by Umakant Mishra).

3. Building Resilience in the Supply Chain. A fragile economy and high risk of disruption leads to great uncertainty with supply chains. Ramping up manufacture after a period of downtime can lead to challenges, such as lack of skilled labour and availability of quality materials. Future-proofing the supply chain involves reviewing goals and strategy; carrying out an analysis of supply chain risks and weaknesses; prioritising focus; diversifying supplier network and developing robust processes that meet new goals and objectives.

In the meantime, stay safe during this mad time. And remember, pandemic, like black swans, don’t come by too often!

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