Are You Ready for that Next Black Swan? – Reflecting on the woes of The Gap

When I ask people to name three recently implemented technologies that most impact our world today, they usually propose the the_black_swancomputer, the Internet, and the laser. All three were unplanned, unpredicted, and unappreciated upon their discovery, and remained unappreciated well after their initial use. They were consequential. They were Black Swans.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE


I’ve been re-reading my handout for The Black Swan. Here’s the point of the book: something utterly unexpected is coming around the corner.   What is it? We don’t know. If we did, it would be expected, not unexpected.

This observation seems more obvious as the months and years go by. This week, we read of the closing of a large percentage of The Gap stores. One writer wrote about it, and titled her article American retail as we know it is dying a slow and painful death.”

Just a few years ago, The Gap was riding pretty high. Along with Kodak, and BlackBerry, and before that Circuit City, and…

The times change. We are not prepared. We adjust – some of us, sometimes… But some businesses, some companies and organizations are not prepared to adjust – they are simply not nimble enough.

And the bad news is, in spite of how good we think we are at reading the future signs, in spite of how prepared we think we are, that next “black swan” is still right around the corner.

Are you ready for it? Of course not. You are not ready; I am not ready.

One more quote from the book, from the legendary screenwriter William Goldman, in relation to the prediction of movie sales:

“Nobody knows anything.”

The author followed that quote with this:

He knew that he could not predict individual events, but he was well aware that the unpredictable, namely a movie turning into a blockbuster, would benefit him immensely.

So, we really should not be surprised then the next black swan arrives. Because, it is coming…



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