A Black Swan and a Pathfinder Walk into a Bar They Didn’t Know Existed

Steve LudwigVUCALeave a Comment

A black swan on water

To crib from the Bard, Beware the Black Swan.

In the West, people were convinced that swans were only, and could only be, white. In 1697 black swans were first seen by Europeans in Western Australia.

Minds blown.

For modern use, the term “Black Swan” was popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s a framework to help us understand our own limitations and imaginations.

Taleb defines a Black Swan event as something that improbable with three principal characteristics—it is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.

Think 9-11; the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland that shut down European air traffic; the COVID pandemic; etc.

All Black Swans.

Black Swan events can have a devastating impact on high tech startups and other business that are highly vulnerable to sudden shifts in the market or technological advancements.

As if starting up a new venture wasn’t complicated and risky enough.

Here are five tips to help you prepare for a Black Swan Event.

Risk assessment: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential events that could impact your startup and prioritize them based on likelihood and potential impact. Consider the interdependencies within your supply chain and the potential consequences of disruptions.

Supply chain management: We have felt a lot of this over the past two years. Diversify your supply chain to reduce the risk of disruptions. Consider alternative suppliers and transportation routes, as well as contingency plans for addressing potential supply chain disruptions.

Technology infrastructure: Ensure that your technology infrastructure is robust and secure, and consider implementing redundant systems to minimize downtime in the event of a disaster. Regularly backup data and store it in a secure, offsite location.

Collaboration: Foster partnerships and relationships with other startups, local authorities, and industry organizations to share information, resources, and support in the case of a crisis.

Flexibility: Be prepared to pivot and adjust your business model quickly in response to market changes or disruptive events. High tech startups should continuously monitor their industry and be proactive in making changes that will help them remain competitive and resilient in the face of uncertainty.

Part of the challenge of Black Swan event is that most of us are hardwired to concentrate on things we already know. Time and time again we fail to take into consideration what we don’t know.

Most of us are unable to estimate opportunities; remain vulnerable to the natural impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize; and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the ‘impossible’.

That’s where Pathfinders come in.

Pathfinders are individuals that have, among many other things, the mindset to deal with ambiguity, a curiosity that allows for creative solutions, and is excited and motivated by the need to create or build something new.

The Pathfinder is the type of person that we have found has the best chance of success as the first sales hire in a startup. But it’s much broader than that. In larger organizations, a Pathfinder will have more success expanding into new markets.

And, when it comes to thinking about and dealing with Black Swan events, having Pathfinders can be the difference between failure and success.

To identify Pathfinders within your organization, or to recruit Pathfinders, we have developed an assessment tool focused on the mindset/deep skills of a Pathfinder allowing you to get the right people in the right roles

For the first sales hire of a B2B tech startup we already have The Right Five which covers both the deep and vocational skills required to be successful. You can watch a demo here.

For every other type of Pathfinder, we’ve decoupled the deep skills from The Right Five assessment and now offer this as a standalone online assessment through The Pathfinder Company.

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