When you actively and deeply listen, you can expect and counter Black Swan events quicker and easier, thus saving your organisation a lot of potential grief and open up to a lot of potential opportunity.

Eric Vigo

Managing Director and Founder of Rebooter Group

Originally authored by

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Have a more adaptable mindset, embrace change and pivot in response to unexpected events.

2. Build resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks and challenges.

3. Use tactical creativity: the use of yes-and to not be distracted by defending the ego and its identification of the self in front of others.

4. Be open to hidden opportunities amidst chaos, innovative thinking and problem-solving skills.

This article originally appeared on Linkedin

I have just finished Christopher Voss book “Never Split the Difference’, and some takeaways came to me around one chapter in particular: ‘Chapter 10 – Find the Black Swan’

Within this chapter, he has a sub-heading called ‘Uncovering Unknown Unknowns’, and he mentioned that we need to:

  • let what we know as our ‘known-knowns’ guide us, but not blind us to what we don’t know.
  • remain flexible and adaptable to any situation.
  • always retain a beginner’s mind, and
  • never overvalue our experience or undervalue the informational and emotional realities served up moment by moment in whatever situation.

There’s a lot to unpack here beyond one article.

Why Black Swan events are so hard to uncover

‘Black Swan’ events (named after Nassim Taleb’s book “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”), e.g. COVID-19, are not just rare but profoundly reshape entire industries overnight.

Covid caught many off guard (and yes, many are trying to force the old back into the new with limited success).

Black Swan events are those people don’t think could happen, because they’ve never seen them before. And like a European seeing a real black swan for the first time, these events can challenge what we thought we knew, and our tendency to believe we can predict everything with certainty.

And our craving for certainty doesn’t halt the ability for Black Swan events to happen, so our fight is ongoing.

Taleb points out that this over-confidence in our ability to forecast can blind us to the true nature of events.

How to expect a Black Swan event

Instead, it’s about being open to the unknown and ready to adapt when the unexpected happens.

Now, imagine having the skills to expect Black Swan events ahead of time and factoring them in so you can navigate uncertainties easier.

The solution lies in embracing the art of deep active listening for, as they use in improv, the ‘shiny thing’ (essences or hidden gem).

‘Shiny things’ are keywords that give an opening to be curious, excited, or have insight about aspects of, or what lies underneath the story or a communication. It isn’t what is obvious that leads the story down a much more interesting path.

My hypothesis is that being able to easily identify Black Swan events before they emerge is similar to pulling shiny things out of communications.

This skill gives:

1. a more adaptable mindset, embrace change and pivot in response to unexpected events.

2. resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks and challenges.

3. tactical creativity: the use of yes-and to not be distracted by defending the ego and its identification of the self in front of others.

4. openness to hidden opportunities amidst chaos, innovative thinking and problem-solving skills.


As much as these are generalised statements, without them, there is no moving ahead to the level it takes to expect a black swan in advance. Training in this would then need priority.

So when people who put these skills into practice (and make mistakes along the way, sure), they lead by example.

So here’s a question for you: How can we prepare ourselves to anticipate the unexpected and thrive amidst chaos?

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