There are countless variables that can produce unpleasant surprises in today’s business world. Whether it’s the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, new regulation, the weather, or a competitor’s move, being ready for the unexpected is part of the job-description of leaders and managers.
Dr. Dave Baiocchi (bi-O-key) of the RAND Corporation has written a book, Surprise! From CEOs to Navy SEALs: How a Select Group of Professionals Prepare for and Respond to the Unexpected, examining how professionals in various settings respond to surprises. Click here to read a summary. PriSim interviewed Dr. Baiocchi about how a business leader can become better at managing surprise:
1. “When surprise really matters, rely on your most experienced personnel. Experience is the best insurance policy to mitigate the negative effects caused by surprise. We found this to be true across all of the professions that we interviewed from the NFL coach, to the SWAT team captain, to former ambassadors. Experience is what allows professionals to quickly identify and initiate a response to an unfolding surprise before it can escalate into a bigger problem.
2. Build a network of ‘surprise sensors’ within your organization. We found that business leaders, in particular, usually are not the first person in their organization to detect an unexpected event. Successful business leaders have a network of trusted colleagues at all levels of the organization who can alert C-level leadership when something unexpected is detected.
3. Recognize that the biggest surprises are likely to come from outside your field of view and take steps to prepare for this. While this may sound unintuitive at first, most business leaders spend a lot of time assessing and understanding known threats or competitors, so the biggest surprises sometimes come from previously unknown or unidentified directions. One way to mitigate this risk is to conduct exercises that probe a range of future outcomes based upon third party actions. Exercises like this are helpful in identifying the ‘surprise space’ and mitigating third party risks.”
As always, we welcome your ideas and comments
PriSim Business War Games Inc. runs and designs customized business simulations that teach decision-makers about business, strategy, finance, and leadership.