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Hurricane Ophelia decided to pay a visit to Ireland at the same time that we were visiting Dublin for an event about collaborating to make the best out of PSD2. And one can learn a lot from seeing how people react to a hurricane. In a way, dealing with a hurricane can be like dealing with changing markets. Change is like the wind, and when it’s fast and sudden, it’s a hurricane. The hurricane of disruption. Tweet this.

Many industries are going through their own “disruption Ophelia” at the moment. Fintech is going through a regulation hurricane. Knowledge-based industries, in general, are bracing for the AI hurricane. All industries deal with the hurricane of digitalization, one way or another.

Availability of information

The thing that struck me the most was the availability information. Of course, we had heard about the hurricane before getting into the plane. Particularly, that it could reach speeds of more than 100 km/h! But once we landed:

  1. Everybody that we spoke with shared the information they had. We heard about when the storm would be strongest. We heard how people thought one should react.
  2. The hotel reception gave us a one-pager with some official recommendations. It had information about the size of the storm, how we should act, and other useful information.
  3. The TV covered the storm almost all the time. We saw how the storm was affecting other parts of the country, and how people were preparing.

At first, the information struck me as an overload. And compared to what I was actually seeing during the storm, it felt like an overreaction.

But then I noticed: as travelers, we were just getting an extra load of the signals. Most people only see a few of those. That’s why they need to spread fast (and much). Otherwise, people might be optimistic, and a bit foolhardy.

I can imagine many people saying oh, I still have time to go get my groceries, I’ll just quickly jump into the car, when the hurricane is already there and it’s too late. But when everybody is talking about it, everywhere, you make sure that everybody is at least a bit worried. Enough to make sure they stay safe. Get those groceries later.

The lesson learned for corporations: you can do the same with big changes:

  1. Make sure you encourage your employees to discuss the changes. Tweet this. They will be more prepared to transform your business. And that means your business will be agiler. And you also get more ideas of how to take advantage of those changes. You never know where the best ideas might come from. Tweet this.
  2. Have clear ways of working for and with the change. Have clear policies. And make sure you deliver them in many places. Tweet this. Like the one-pager in our hotel. Having constant reminders and “official guidelines” makes a great difference.
  3. Keep people informed. One official piece is not enough. When the changes are big enough, your employees want to know more. When you engage with startups, your employees want to know more. One press release is not enough. They will feel like something is happening, and then move on to day-to-day. You must have a constant stream of information about how you’re reacting to the change. Make sure that their discussions are not far away from your official view. Tweet this.

“Startups often try to change things” pointed out John O’Dwyer, Head of Digital Investments and Innovation at AIB. “And they encounter departments that don’t want to change”. That’s also in our view the biggest hurdle of organizational change. That’s what stands in the way of renewal. You could even say, that is renewal itself.

So let’s learn from the Irish reaction to Ophelia:

  1. By keeping everybody discussing the change, they will acknowledge the change. They will be open to changing things. They might even be the ones suggesting the change. When working with startups, have many people involved. In many ways. You are making them ready for when it’s time for their department to get involved.
  2. By having clear processes for the change, they will know how to react. They will propose things that fit into that process. And you will be able to control that process. You will be able to identify what are the best reactions to change, and apply those. You will be able to identify the best startups to work with, and how to do it.
  3. By having a clear stream of communication about the change, you keep the discussion informed. You make sure people understand that the change is coming. You make sure people understand the size. And you make sure people understand how it will affect them. When an innovation touches them, they will be more open to it. Because they saw it coming. Because they wanted it to come.

Of course, in this story, we have a very big advantage in comparison with a hurricane. In this case, your corporation can come out much much stronger! So let’s learn the lesson!