Early warning: esistono davvero i "black swans"?


Abbiamo letto i commenti di alcuni colleghi internazionali in merito a un articolo di qualche anno fa sulla "black swan theory", diventata famosa grazie a Nissem Taleb, un professore americano di Finanza: i "cigni neri" sono eventi inaspettati, difficili da prevedere, che potenzialmente hanno un effetto devastante sul mercato, sia dal punto di vista della risonanza che delle conseguenze.

Per chi si occupa di Market & Competitive Intelligence esistono davvero i "black swans"? Le attività di monitoraggio del mercato e della concorrenza possono limitare questo rischio?

L'Early Warning è una delle attività chiave evidenziate dalla prima fase della ricerca sull'evoluzione della Market & Competitive Intelligence in Italia. Partecipa anche tu alla ricerca scrivendo a stratinnov@stratinnov.it

Vi riproponiamo alcune sezioni di "Planning for the Unknown", edito nel 2016 ma ancora molto attuale.


(...) Identifying “grey” swans

As global business becomes more unpredictable and volatile, boards will need to assess their capability to foresee unexpected events and ensure their organisation can adapt. If not for “black swan” events, which by definition are hard to predict, then for so-called “grey swans”: high-impact events that can be anticipated but are unlikely to occur. This could involve boards challenging their role and relationship with management, using big-data software to identify patterns, and upgrading their scenario-planning skills, particularly in overseas expansion strategies. Governing for unexpected events could also force boards to challenge like never before their composition, decision-making biases, information sources and openness to new ideas.

Moreover, it could lead to boards having more unstructured conversations about “outlier” events and creating conditions where directors feel confident to think and speak at tangents to the group view. Ensuring the organisation’s culture is sufficiently open, agile and adaptive to deal with unexpected events should be a high board priority.

“The competitive landscape in global business is rapidly changing,” (...) “But company risk-management systems tend to focus on specific risks and mitigants, whereas so-called black swan events usually have many ‘mothers and fathers’ and are multi-factorial.” (...) “The first question is: are these shocks really black swan events or would they have been evident beforehand if the ‘dots had been joined together’? Boards and management teams must be looking beyond specific issues or sometimes even their own industry and sectors to identify trends or patterns that have the potential to materialise into large problems.”

(...) Offshore risks

The potential for financial shocks and the ensuing extra regulation, as well as a growing backlash in developed nations against globalisation and a potential shift towards more isolationist economic policies, are rising business challenges. These risks are so complex and multi-faceted that boards could argue they should not waste time on “unknown unknowns” and instead focus on higher-probability events. However, leading company directors and governance experts argue that boards, particularly those with global operations, must factor the potential for shocks into risk-management planning.

(...) The potential for black swan events strengthens the case for directors with experience,(...). “You need directors with a breadth of experience and some battle scars; people who have been involved in businesses or governed through several cycles and can ‘join the dots’ across industries before, during and after shocks. The ability to recognise patterns before others, and understand how shocks might play out should they emerge, comes with experience. And while experience usually comes with years, there are also younger leaders who are accumulating great experience that will add to the strength of diverse teams”.

(...) it is critical that directors spend time out of the boardroom to broaden their information sources. “Management is often so immersed in day-to-day business challenges that they may have limited time to get out and listen to a range of voices. By talking to staff, customers, suppliers and investors, as well as being involved in the broader economy, directors can bring that external perspective to management, and use it to frame discussions about potential risks to the organisation.”

Site visits

(...) site visits and discussions with frontline staff can also give directors a sense of the organisation’s culture and adaptability to market shocks. “It’s incredibly illuminating when directors get out and talk to a range of stakeholders. You get a first-hand view of whether the organisation embraces change, has a lifelong learning culture and is agile and capable of responding to shocks.” (...) cultural diversity on boards is important when assessing global business risks.

(..) boards can and should have a larger role in risk identification. “Boards can become more expansive in how they define their scope. Directors usually take a great deal of care not to cut into the role of management, but they can carve out a more active role in long-term risk analysis. That is where the benefit of having directors who have worked across different industries and had diverse collective experience comes to the fore.” (...)

 “Boards might identify a small number of high-impact risks, understand the leading indicators that would alert them to the event, and then consider information needed to confirm those indicators.” (...) boards should use data-mining software to test leading indicators and identify patterns that are potential precursors to market shocks. “It would be foolish not to use software robotics to mine data for risk and other emerging scenarios. Outputs from data mining can help boards determine if their assumptions in risk-management identification are true or false.”(...) “Directors should have access to a range of different experiences that help them join the dots. At an individual level, most senior company directors have their own professional development program, are attending industry conferences or key business lunches, or are doing short courses at overseas universities. It’s about directors proactively building their industry knowledge and scanning their company’s environment, domestically and overseas.”

Nothing beats director curiosity when it comes to understanding the organisation’s key risks and how it would respond should any eventuate (...). “It has been said that good directors are always smelling for smoke in the organisation. When they sense it, they keep peeling back the problem, layer by layer, until they are satisfied the issue is being addressed.”

Balancing act

(...) boards should not spend excessive time worrying about black swan events. “It’s a balancing act. Boards should think about geopolitical, regulatory or technology risks over the horizon, but often the real shocks that damage an organisation are happening now. It could be changing consumer preferences or evolving product markets that do most damage; not a possible black swan event that could be years away.”

(...) boards do an annual deep dive into the organisation’s three-to-five-year strategic risks. (...) scenario analysis can help boards and management understand different outcomes from potential shocks (...)

(...) an open boardroom culture and the right governance processes can help directors identify potential market and business shocks. “Boards need an environment where directors feel confident to discuss what seem like low-probability events at the time. It can be hard for directors or executives to bring up implausible risks. Nobody wants to go out on a limb, even though that type of thinking is usually required with black swan events. This is more than just a time-management issue; it can be an indication of a lack of an open and enquiring mindset within the board or the executive, or both.”

Probing discussions

(...) boards should hold unstructured conversations about high-impact risks, where there are no meeting agendas or measurable goals. “We’re all so busy moving from meeting to meeting and getting things done that we don’t stop to have unstructured conversations with our fellow directors. Conversations where directors are open-minded about future strategic risks and probe and explore issues.”

Boards (...) should have a session for unstructured conversation before some meetings. Directors must still prepare and contribute to the topic and an industry expert who can challenge organisation thinking should facilitate the conversation. “These discussions help the board develop an enquiring mind and collectively become more intuitive over time,” he says. “It also helps the board’s relationship with management because they are working together to explore issues where there are no known answers.”

Boards should allocate the first 30–50 per cent of the formal meeting to strategic dialogue, leaving compliance matters to the second half (...) “Boards need a process where directors can discuss current and future strategic threats and opportunities in the first half of the meeting. But they often get bogged down in conformance rather than performance issues, and don’t have the scope or the urgency to take deep dives into potential black swan events.” (...)

Fonte: AICD, Company Director Magazine, 2016