Dragons, Unicorns, Cockroaches and Gray Rhinos

Only the paranoid survive

Andy Grove

What the world is currently witnessing with the global Corona Virus Outbreak, and what’s being touted by some well meaning leaders as a Black Swan event, is what one would actually qualify as a Gray Rhino.

Gray Rhinos, coined by Michele Wucker, are high probability, high impact yet neglected threats (despite their size) * which play out every once in a while.

With the scale of impact and duration of current outbreak, this translates to continued pain and suffering in the days ahead, for people, ventures, businesses and nations across the world.

When did you last face a Gray Rhino?| Image by Allen Reed from Pixabay

Barring a handful of sectors (healthcare, essential services, last mile delivery, online and offline alternatives and tools for a world which is undergoing social distancing, supply chain disruptions etc) which might not just survive but also experience accelerated demand and growth during this phase; almost all other sectors would do well to drastically readjust and redefine their strategy and focus for a much-undefined longer period of time with their existing runways (read cash-in-the-bank) if they wish to have any hopes to survive.

$ave dat money – Lil Dicky a.k.a. David Andrew Burd | Image by Franz W. from Pixabay

Control your expenses better than your competition. This is where you can always find the competitive advantage

Sam Walton

Ventures and businesses with access to insights and practical advise from Board Members, Investors and Advisors with prior exposure to down cycles and experiences (good and bad) with multiple companies, might be better geared to plan, execute and survive such cycles.

For ventures which might have been earlier preparing to shoot for the moon and hopefully providing a unicorn or dragon sized return for their stakeholders; if it doesn’t belong to a category/ sector which sees continuing demand and growth in the current cycle, acting and executing like a cockroach might be a better strategy to improve their odds of survival. Given existing pools of capital will now have to suddenly provide for a longer runway, almost all revenue forecasts and predictions (especially for early stage ventures) will be wrong, and almost all new fundraising in such sectors might happen at more modest valuations and terms, it would be worthwhile for such ventures to drastically cut down all unnecessary burn and expenses.

Character and Reputation will be Built in the Hard Times | Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

In the extremity of war, character is revealed

George Packer

As Yuval Noah Harari might concur, the best way forward in a rapidly changing world, and especially in view of effectively dealing with the current pandemic, would be (global) cooperation.

This could be applied to the nations fighting the pandemic together, as well as extrapolated to people, cultures, ventures and businesses. No better way than leading by example, and leading from the front for expectations being set for others.

Creating win-win wherever possible, and dealing with utmost openness, honesty, integrity, fairness, trust and respect might serve all well in the longer run: Character and reputation will be built by the actions and approach one takes when the times are rough; and history will remember the path taken by leaders long after cycles are over, and we all are gone.

* Another Gray Rhino within the next decade or so, could very well be conditions arising from continued climate change and wealth and social inequalities, where once again when the dominoes start to fall, there would be no going back to an old normal.

Given our indifference in the recent past to plan for and execute at scale towards effectively tackling the current situation; would we want to take the same path, laced with indifference, for these future high probability and high impact threats?