New Zealand businesses, just days out from Christmas, are living in fear that another Covid-19 lockdown will kill the festive and holiday trading (according to research). If there is one lesson from the pandemic, it’s not that nobody can anticipate the future, but that we should be ready for anything.

If you have ever had to prepare to survive a storm on a yacht while out at sea, you will know that survival comes down to anticipation, planning, preparation and timely action. Your business should be no different.

The print industry didn’t foresee the devastation digital would wreak on their industry, even though they were forewarned. Most businesses worldwide didn’t see a pandemic coming, but the warnings were there. Books like The Hot Zone by Richard Preston back in 1995, were followed by early warnings from the likes of Bill Gates as early as 2015.

Director, Human Factors MD Inc., Dr Marc Green, (writing on compliance) says that how we respond to warnings comes down to many factors, including the cost of compliance, perceived risk, risk tolerance, perception of control, and social aspects.

Those variables aside, however, few would be in a position to argue against the fact that we are living in a world where anything can happen – war, pandemics, global warming and other catastrophes and even conquest. It’s all on the table.

We cannot predict the future, but rather than living in fear of what may happen, we need to learn to be more than seaworthy. We need to have a business designed to navigate most of the elements that will come against it. Hoping that this storm too will pass is not a viable survive, prosper and grow tactic.

Of all the resilience measures, the one perhaps least applied is anticipation. If we cannot anticipate, we’re always going to be caught short. Anticipation needs two things:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Imagination.


A business owner or manager who does not read books, follow the news or listen to what people (and customers) are saying – who does not rely on multiple sources of intelligence – is like a skipper heading out to sea without knowing the weather forecast.


Imagination is not a stretch. Of all the questions we ask ourselves, ‘what if?’ is the most powerful but possibly least used.

For example:

  • What if, despite promises of a Covid-19 vaccine, we are entering a future where lockdowns – like air raid sirens – can happen at any time? How will your business survive, prosper and grow?
  • What if China invades Taiwan? Currently, there is a 45% chance of conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan in 2020-22.
  • What if global warming leads to water shortages, drought, pest invasions and storm damage here in New Zealand?
  • What if our infrastructure starts to fail because the pressures are too significant?

Once you have identified possible scenarios, like an invasion of Taiwan by China, you can work out how various scenarios may affect your business and how you can prepare to weather the storm or change direction.

As Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War: “Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the rich of ordinary men, is foreknowledge”.

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