Author: Manu Steens
Inspired by ‘Ready or not’ by Tom Palmaerts.
‘Future proof’ also means being antifragile and
resilient. Does resilience start with becoming future proof or is that
just one of the entrances? I think it’s the latter.
What can we learn for Business Continuity Management
(BCM), Risk Management (RM) and Crisis Management (CM) and on a personal level
to become future proof?
The first thing, of course, is that we look into the future. We
have to make time for that. If we don’t, we get too focused on what we already
can. That produces a daily grind that stays present, giving rise to
inefficiency. So variety is the key to adaptation. Further, variety
of topics we focus on is also necessary because then we give our subconscious
the chance to let a few 10,000ths of brain cells grind through on each of the
However, care should be taken that it does not become
too much so that you no longer dwell on a friend’s or acquaintance’s birthday
than to send an emoji. The golden advice of Augustus (Ancient Rome)
therefore remains valid: “festina lente” or make haste slowly. In fact,
that was already an opinion that was close to Kahneman’s when he spoke about
“Thinking Fast and Slow”: you have to go slower now and then, because quick
decisions often do not survive a long-term vision.
So a right attitude is to embrace changes with slow
thinking, which has everything to do with a first step: exploring those changes
and the next step: anticipating changes, partly from gut feeling, partly from
That’s why the advice is to stay focused, but in the
right way: start with small things.
– Check your e-mail only twice a day at fixed times.
– Turn off your sound on your cell phone when you’re not
on call. Don’t let yourself be disturbed, use the airplane mode of your smartphone
– Focus on one subject at a time in blocks of time, so
that you can get into a ‘concentration flow’.
– Change subjects regularly, so that your brain knows
rest and continues to work subconsciously.
– Decline meetings if they are not important.
– Do creative brainstorms and group sessions regularly,
at the time of the day when you are at your best.
In order to bring yourself to the best of your
ability, there are also a few things you should take into account: you should
explore the future from the best possible known and, above all, lived-through
– Read a lot and regularly, and gain knowledge.
– Love yourself.
– Treat yourself to something tasty.
– Use the gentle stimulus of calm music (for myself at
least, for others it may be a bit rougher).
– Use technology to support you.
– Walk during the meetings.
– Less coffee, more water, avoid sugar.
Second, we see that the masses choose a simple way
out, even if it is wrong. Few choose to delve into the longer path that
requires more discipline and patience. The masses know they are going
wrong, but they don’t know either, because they don’t want to know. And
before you know it, you’ll come across a Gray Rhino that is
unavoidable. And that will happen again and again. In this way one
learns more not from mistakes of the past than one does learn. And that
has to do with brain economy. A one-off experience without great factual
knowledge thus becomes a rule of thumb that one uses as a law of nature with
absolute certainty. And the reason behind this is often ‘awareness of
time’. Or the economical use of their personal time. As a result,
many Americans stop by a store on their way to work to pick up a snack for
breakfast, fueling obesity. And they know it.
From a time economy, we often choose the easy path at
work. That feels safer, because it is familiar territory. It is not
untrodden ground. And that goes well, until change is required. Then,
of course, an unknown territory takes over, and it becomes more difficult for
everybody to see, decide and act. This creates psychological
resistance. One must therefore learn to experience overcoming a challenge
as something delicious.
The reason why one should learn to enjoy being
challenged is that one often gets into original situations, and therefore needs
a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. This is the only way to push
boundaries by alternately exerting and relaxing.
A realization that must penetrate to the core of the
gut feeling is that what has previously been tried and failed, may now succeed
if the system with which one works changes. After all, complex systems are
systems that are time-dependent, in an unprecedented way. As a result, the
system’s response to external influences cannot be predicted. Therefore,
keep the sensors of your soul open for anticipation of changes in the
situation, which is a complex system. Therefore, exploring futures is also
useful. Adapt with further training, and think differently, for example
from the point of view of scarcity. That could be sooner than you
think. See also the UK after Brexit.
Subsequently, it is important to look for a
tailor-made approach and solutions in an inspired way in crisis management and
resilience management. A copy-paste of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
from another organization does not work for your own organization and therefore
does not add anything to your own resilience. The environment changes and
everyone and everything is chasing the facts. So continuous adaptation and
evolution is required. For organizations this means that the plans, the
risk registers, the objectives must change. For people, this means
sharpening skills and developing talents and competencies. For both, a vision
of the future that is somehow correct is a must. Because one has to go to
the core of the questions, the ‘5 x why technique’ is important to find the
Although it makes no sense to copy a plan from
elsewhere, it is possible that inspired design makes sense. It can provide
insights into one’s own situation from the situation of the other. That
way an inspired version will be better than the original for your situation,
even if it fails, because this is part of evolving.
In this way too, creating your own BCP, giving your
own interpretation to the crisis teams, setting up your own risk management is
innovation. Because it creates or contributes to value. But that
cannot be done efficiently without learning from others
In addition, networking is also important because
doing all that work without the internal and external customer and knowing the
other stakeholders yields nothing useful. Or almost nothing.
So start from your sources, which you mix with the
knowledge about your own current and future situations. Write down your
own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and help build insight
into your own situation from there. But always mention your sources,
otherwise you will be stealing.
Reverse engineer your sources: see why they work for
them, and apply similar reasoning to your own situation.
That way you build your own flexibility. You get
it back in no time, because you already had it as a child. Ultimately, agility
is innate. Some lose that and become dinos in the business. Others
sometimes adapt. Still others are constantly adapting. The latter is
what you need. That can go so far that you also have to change dreams and
goals. However, that does not mean that you should unlearn acquired
skills. Because many things come back cyclically in history and you don’t
know which ones in advance. But ‘panta rei’, and so the needs of
everything and everyone are constantly changing.
A point of attention here is that experts sometimes
try to be able to do everything. That does not work. You have to be
able to let go of things. Others can do some things better than you can. However,
these are external factors on which you should let nothing depend, but to which
you must adapt yourself and your organization. Preparation is therefore
‘key’ and also your own flexibility. Learn to adjust your
wishes. Among other things, by continuously learning, or by being curious
and by daring to change your opinion in a well-founded and motivated
way. A ‘worst case scenario’ in a BCP can thus better become a ‘reasonable
worst case scenario’. By adapting in a reasonable way to what you and your
organization can handle. What is needed is:
– Using an open attitude.
– Trying to be ‘reasonably all-round’.
– Use fast and slow thinking.
Extremely important are:
– The use of a cultural empathy and being in / creating
a multi-cultural environment.
– Think about whether you can do it yourself before
going to a consultant, because you always know your own needs better than they
This makes you more independent, self-steering and
Most importantly, even if you evolve well to become
future proof, you must always remain a freshman. In the sense that you
regularly still practice. Otherwise ideas turn into sterile theory that
everyone eventually distrusts, except those who are concerned with ‘conspiracy
theories’. So take your time for theory, but also for practice. Take
pleasure in both, come up with original things, and before you know it there
will be another evolution. This requires interest, as the engine of
lifelong learning. When is the best time to do that? When you feel
the passion for it. For the content. Note: you don’t have to have a
passion to do “something”, but to do “that”.
To further steer that in the right direction, you have
to break through the bubble that you were taught in your upbringing. To
see your blind spots in what you want to develop. Therefore: travel, do
conferences, imagine your dreams, start a ‘secret’ talk club for extreme
So: as said: passion comes first. You have to
dream big, but start small. Step by step you move forward. Provide content
first, look and feel after. Collaborate with competitors and see what you
can create together. Go hang out with them. And put your passion to
Besides all this that is based on good will, saying
that there is a threat is usually meaningless. One must feel it. So
creativity is needed to make this feel. This creativity must be stimulated
from the youth years. A STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)
education should therefore also contain art. (Then it becomes STEAM) After
all, design is necessary to establish a link between people and technology.
Thinking about the future should always be based on
today’s reality. Otherwise it will not be accepted. That is why
working step by step is also important here. A challenge for crisis teams
is therefore the fact that risks sometimes seem to make leaps and bounds,
because events can sometimes occur suddenly.
To think about the future from the present, with a
multi-cultural and technical and scientific background, you should also visit
other entities and other governments. Discuss with them their approach and
point of view and your own.
However, to think diversely in a group, inclusion is
needed. A good Cultural Quotient (CQ) (and culture-based empathy) and
adaptability are required for this. Together you have more depth and
therefore better insights into your own situation. A better 360°
view. Without inclusion, it is just a check-the-box exercise for diversity
policy. With a good CQ, look not only inwardly, into your own organization,
but also at world developments, far and near from you. Look to the future
and the past, to be and remain successful. A strong element in this can be
creating your own knowledge-sharing network for people with common
interests. A mindset to dare to take risks is essential here.
What must, as an example of daring, is to regularly (dare
to) raise the bar. The crisis teams must be informed about the
world. In addition, risk leadership is a means to this
end. Everything must be openly discussed, hard for the results but with a
heart for the people.
In line with this, it makes sense for each of the
employees in the crisis teams to look daily at what they are grateful for that
day, every day. This focuses on the positive, which increases
resilience. Because gratitude, just like being flexible, leads to more
happiness. And happiness is one of the most essential conditions for being