10 Steps to Protecting Your Business, Your Employees and Yourself During the COVID-19 Crisis
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In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a crystal ball. While no one can be certain what the future holds, there’s an excellent place to start: a team of futurists who analyze artificial intelligence data to predict world events, such as pandemics.
That’s what MeasuredRisk has done for years. Its founder, Tom Albert, is an Advisor in The Oracles who created the risk management company with a unique team of geopolitical forecasters, behavioral experts, hackers and ex-military — as well as an artificial intelligence engine dubbed “the brain.”
We spoke with Albert about his perspective on current events and how entrepreneurs should respond. Here’s what he said.
1. Become antifragile.
A “black swan” is an unforeseen, unpredictable, and extreme event that tests a system the way COVID-19 is exposing the fragility of our world. The term was coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who authored “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.” His idea is that we must build “antifragile” operations that can survive — and thrive — after these events.
Becoming antifragile isn’t just about resilience through adversity, but growth. It’s like working out: You get stronger with pain and tearing your muscles. While a teacup shatters when thrown to the ground, chocolate milk gets better when shaken. That’s the kind of business you want.
Your adaptability in a crisis determines your sustainability. Consider the vulnerabilities of your people, processes, supply chain, and technology. Complexity causes problems; for example, international travel spread the virus. Can you go back to basics? Together with your team, take a 360-degree look at where you can minimize redundancies and increase efficiency.
2. Defend against hackers.
Becoming antifragile includes protecting your intellectual property from hacking, which is a serious threat. Train your employees to work from home securely — and ensure your partners do the same, because hackers often attack via third-party suppliers.
To protect your information, use the Signal app, Brave web browser and virtual private networks (VPNs) like NordVPN software or Winston hardware on all your devices. Use two-factor authentication as an extra layer of security and long, randomized passwords stored in an app like Dashlane. If you’re having a private conversation, put your phone on airplane mode; you never know who’s listening.
3. Limit your information intake.
My team has analyzed the source of COVID-19 information in real time and has found many bad actors spreading false information to capitalize on fear and cause reactions (think stockpiling toilet paper because you read it’s in short supply). For example, many COVID-19 maps are loaded with malware — software intentionally designed to damage your computer, server or network — even at the top of Google results.
There is such a thing as too much information. With the situation moving so fast, you can easily become overwhelmed. Don’t consume too much, as it will paralyze your ability to act. Be discerning about what you believe, limiting your sources to three that you trust based on their historical reliability, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an economist you trust, or leverage your network with a physician on the ground.
4. Protect your mindset.
One of our advisors, behavior expert Chase Hughes, says fear makes us more predictable and susceptible to things like hacking or phishing from fake social media accounts. The only thing to fear is fear itself. Avoid scrolling social media, getting sucked into the 24-hour news cycles and reacting impulsively; keep a level head, and focus on the next step. Calm is contagious.
On tough days, remember this quote from Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius: “When you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself … What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for? … Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
5. Take advantage of this time.
If you aren’t doing “what you were born for,” take this opportunity to start. This time will likely define the rest of your year. Constraints encourage creativity. Use this time to invent something, reconnect with your artistic side or leverage e-learning. Humans tend to default to decay, rather than growth, unless we have a schedule and keep our desired outcome in mind.
Leaders have undying curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and a desire to help others. My recommended reading includes “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction” by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner; “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t” by Nate Silver; and “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein.
If you need direction, ask yourself: What’s my endgame? Mine is to inspire future leaders, solve world problems and have fun while creating a great life for my family. That’s what drives me.
6. Prioritize your team and loved ones.
If you visualize an inverted pyramid, a servant leader sits at the bottom. They’re patient and kind, especially amid challenges, and they do the right thing. Ensure your team is safe, trust them to do their jobs, and frequently communicate with transparency.
This is an opportunity to come together and lean on each other. We’re all just seeking connection and trying to do life together. Keep in touch with anyone you know who is home alone.
7. Play go, not chess.
The best forecaster is a plumber. When you aren’t trained to think a certain way, you’re more open-minded; so use this crisis to consider new ways of thinking.
Look at both the micro and macro picture, and think of business like the Asian board game of go, not chess — which focuses on decisive one-on-one battles that rarely reward withdrawing or sacrificing your pieces. Go is less formal; battles are fought indirectly in vast, loosely connected areas where it’s harder for the enemy to figure out your strategy as you encircle them. But remember: With the game mindset, it’s still a win-win because we play for enjoyment. Even if you lose, at least you played.
8. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
Andrew McDermott is a superforecaster on my team who predicts geopolitical events. While no one can definitively say how long this will last, he has this advice: “Things can get worse before they get better; so take this seriously, follow guidelines from the CDC, and evaluate your emergency preparedness. I’m a proponent of knowing basic survival skills, having solar power, and keeping all your devices charged.”
9. Embrace remote culture and technology.
After decades of face-to-face hobnobbing, I established MeasuredRisk as a remote team from the beginning. You can achieve as much (or more) over Zoom as you can in person. While you sometimes need to be on the ground, a cubicle doesn’t equal productivity. Consider adjusting to remote work permanently.
Embrace technology like DoorDash and Postmates to deliver your prescriptions and groceries, which provide much-needed support to local businesses who are suffering more than ever. If those around you aren’t tech savvy, FaceTime them and walk them through it.
10. Start with one brick.
When systems break down, leaders stand up. Anyone can be a leader in difficult times. I’m proof of that: I was homeless 20 years ago, and now I’m a business founder. Remember this from the author Andy Andrews: 40 percent of what we worry about will never occur, and 8 percent are legitimate concerns — the good news is that we can deal with them.
Every house starts with a brick. Focus on the brick, not the house, and if you must, make that brick yourself. I hope this pandemic teaches us to love each other more, work together better and think differently. Let’s embrace the opportunity. The future is bright.
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