I found a very interesting topic in Jim Collins latest book called Productive Paranoia. Every great company that he followed embraced this concept to a certain degree. I watched the importance of this first hand. My mentor’s Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady are always pre pared for what could happen. The interesting twist was this paranoia did not make them procrastinators. It did not make them sacred to make decisions, or have “analysis paralysis”. It just made them very aware that hard times could come and they should prepare for the worst but not let it affect their end goal or mission. Most people, especially the choleric or high D personalities think this means not making decisions or having a “sky is falling mentality”. That just shows how much they need to grow. Some times shot first and then ask questions can be the end of your company, relationships or finances. To succeed through difficult times requires some pre thought and planning for, WHAT IF.
One example of this is a team of people, lead by Breashear, that were climbing Mount Everest to do an IMAX video. They were at Camp 111 some 24, 500 feet up the mountain. As they looked down, 3,000 feet below them, there was a group of 50 climbers heading their way. He had spent an entire year planning every aspect of this trip and his investors had spent millions of dollars to make this trip successful. Their goal was to get the best film shots of the journey to the summit and to bring everyone, safely, back down the mountain. As he was getting ready for the day’s journey and saw those 50 people coming up the mountain. His productive paranoia started to kick in.
Productive paranoia number one – build cash reserves or buffers in case something goes wrong. He knew that he had this one licked. He had prepared for this climb a year before the actual climb. He had enough gear and reserves, oxygen canisters, to make it through almost anything or any delay. He felt comfortable with the first stage of paranoia.
Productive paranoia number two – bound risk = death line risk, asymmetric risk, and uncontrollable risk. This is the one that really mad him nervous because all three risk were evident. What if a storm comes up and gives those 50 climbers time catch up with him, what if all those climbers are at the summit at the same time, what if they need to get down the mountain fast but these inexperienced climbers are in their way, what if the weight of all these climbers pulls out the anchors, what if he cant get the shots he wants because there are so many climbers on the mountain – he met with his team and after thinking through they decided to climb down to base camp and ascend after the mountain had cleared. Key point – they could do that because Breashear brought enough reserves in case something went wrong. He was productively paranoid.
Productive paranoia number three – Zoom out then Zoom in and remain aware to changing conditions and respond effectively. This was the process he went through. Zoom out – the mountain has changed and is different then what he expected ( unusual amount of climbers ) Zoom in – new plan. We have enough reserves and funding to wait it out and still get the shots we want.
There are many examples of companies that survived because they had a productive paranoia through process. Southwest Airlines also went though this process and when 911 happened they were the only airline to turn a profit because they had planned for the worst.
Do you have enough money set aside in case something breaks in the house?
Do I have a budget so I can make sure the money I need to run my business is there?
Am I teaching my kids to say no to drugs before some one else ask them to try them?
The goal I am about to run for, do I have another plan in case something changes on the journey?
What if our house doesn’t go up in value?
What if the stock market takes another big drop?
What if gas prices go up another dollar?
We can apply this same thought process, not to slow us down or get stuck in the mud, but just to be ready in case something does happen. This is how the great companies not only have survived but thrived during changes in the economy, changes in regulations or new competition.