Threats and Horizon Scanning Make Lateral Thinking a Must for Business Continuity

“Be prepared”, say some. “Expect the unexpected”, say others. But predicting the future is a delicate matter at the best of times. There’s a balance to be found between preparing for visible, likely and significant threats, and trying to root out business blind spots. If your enterprise is located in an area prone to bad weather, earthquakes or unrest, you’ll already have those items on your business continuity checklist. But what about the unseen, unsuspected threat, also known as the Black Swan event, of the type that has already wiped out companies and even complete industries?

Asking how you can prepare to counter a Black Swan event is of a trick question. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb who coined the description, the whole point about such an event is that you cannot predict it. It comes as a complete surprise. However, you can turn your thinking around and consider areas of vulnerability in your enterprise. This is the same as focusing on outcomes of events, rather than the individual events themselves. For instance, lightning strikes, hacker attacks and computer operator error are all different events. But their common outcome may be that your IT facility fails to continue operating as it should.

A few mental gymnastics like this will also help you to limber up for the rest of your business continuity management. By looking at situations, threats, vulnerabilities and resources in different ways, you are more likely to improve the overall effectiveness and the efficiency of your BCM. Better still (and this sometimes requires even more lateral thinking), you can also start to identify ways in which good business continuity management has a net positive effect on profitability and productivity, instead of just preventing negative impact.

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