2020 has been a year of drastic, unexpected events. Take the pandemic for instance, the warning signs of its arrival were there for a while had we looked closely and taken them seriously. When many of us failed to identify, analyze, and act on time to mitigate its risks, the crisis made us less resilient to it. Here are some lessons to be better prepared for the next ‘unexpected’ crisis.
There are a number of different risks that we become aware of, but don’t consider seriously. This means that our companies are less resilient to these so-called unexpected events than we could be. John Kao, the best selling author and thought leader in his recent article talks about six essential intelligences we need in times like these when disruption is the norm and not the exception. One of the six intelligences he speaks of is cultivating what he calls ‘Contextual Intelligence’ – He advises that smart leaders are those who cultivate (and listen to) divergent perspectives, exercise intuition in appropriate measure, perceive weak signals, and conduct mental rehearsals for unimaginable outcomes.
Let’s explore a simple five-step process to develop contextual intelligence
Identify probable events
This should be done regularly. Read what different futurists in different fields are predicting about the future. Follow the reporting on all matters science. What have the scientists discovered that may impact you? Brainstorm what changes in the long term you think are probable. Brainstorm what risks and opportunities may occur in the long term. In all brainstorms, you should vary who in the company participates to broaden your view. And not only management should be included. Keep a list of ideas.
Increase your awareness quotient
A key problem in not reading the warning signs are that we are not aware of probable disruptive events. Therefore, we need to increase awareness throughout the company. One effective way to do this is to describe in a story how the world will look like if the event occurs. Spread the story throughout the company and talk about how it will impact your company.
Think out of the box
Think new, think innovatively. It is too easy to be stuck on how we have done previously. John Kao defines innovation in his presentation, The beginner’s guide to innovating, as the set of capacities that allows for the continuous realization of a desired future. I want to stress the part that it´s about a set of capabilities, something that we need to practice to become good at.
Analyze, analyze, analyze
Analysis is a crucial step in the process to Another key pillar is analysis. Brainstorm general consequences, i.e. good, neutral, and bad. How will each consequence impact you? What possible actions can you take to mitigate the risks and benefit from the change?
Action on the knowledge
To be able to mitigate the consequences of future disruptive events, you need to act on the knowledge. Decide what actions you want to take. How will your company adapt? What will your company look like and what products/services will it deliver?
If we start working with making the risks and their consequences more visible and prepare for them, we will also improve our ability to identify future disruptive events. Our reality will not be more stable. Therefore, we need to find ways to make ourselves better equipped to handle disruptions.