“If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,… you’ll be a Man, my son!”
—’If’ by Rudyard Kipling
Have you ever come across this equation: crisis = danger + opportunity? If you have, it would typically have been followed by an explanation about the Chinese ideogram for crisis (wieji) having two parts – one that stands for danger and the other for opportunity. Then comes a bit of seemingly oriental wisdom: in a crisis, be aware of the danger but look for the opportunity. Profound? Absolutely. Smart strategy? For sure.
Except that it isn’t so really.
Wieji actually breaks down as danger + crucial point. What it really stands for is that in a crisis, you need to stay alert because you are at a critical juncture that can potentially break you.
And, color me cynical but an unstable state of affairs is hardly the time to be looking out for how to ‘benefit’ from them. Survival? Undeniably. Business Continuity? Entirely. Learning? You bet. But converting catastrophe into opportunity? No way.
These are the bits about a crisis that make it interesting. Business crises test the best of executives and CIOs are no exception.
It’s remarkable the shapes and forms business crises can take these days, apart from the continuing uncertainty mixed with positivity that our economic landscape is witnessing.
I’ve heard horror tales of structured cabling in hospitals being chewed through by rodents to whole kilometers of optic fibre being stolen overnight to a server farm getting fried when the power polarity reversed to even 70 percent of an IT team quitting en masse. It’s these low-frequency, yet high-impact, black swan events that test a CIO’s mettle, his skill and ability to remain calm and look for the way forward.
Amongst the immortal lines of Kipling’s If are also these: “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you, Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ “