Five steps for contingency planning

How do you manage randomness?

Responding to randomness, is where our Associative shines. Its job is to make us as alert as possible to what’s flowing at us from our surroundings, so we can be as responsive as possible to opportunities or threats coming toward us. As we walk down a busy street, we’re alerted to the opportunity signaled by aroma of the bake shop, and the threat of tripping over the obstacle.

At the same time, our Sequential process can play a role here. While we can’t control randomness, we can prepare a response to an ultimately predictable event, for example, life insurance.

Contingency planning requires us to put our future selves into the appearance of the inevitable so we can preview what will show up.

First, brainstorm the things you know are headed your way.

Second, align them according to their potential for negative impact.

Third, one-by-one imagine your future self dealing with the situation

Four, inventory projects and next actions required to prepare

Five, acquire and cache the necessary supplies.

I worked at a Los Angeles School for Walter, a brilliant contingency planner. Nothing is more fraught with predictable randomness than a facility with 800 children aged between 4 and 18 in earthquake country. He thought of nearly everything, then we trained, drilled, and studied examples to fill in our preparation.

One morning, our admission director, Nancy, was leading prospective parents on a tour. Just as she rounded the corner to the Kindergarten classroom, the ground started to shake. As trained, Nancy led the parents to shelter under one of the Kindergarten tables, as the children and teachers simultaneously took cover.

When the shaking stopped, everyone had achieved safety in perfect order. Nancy, still under a table with the parents, turned to them and said, “Let me take this opportunity to tell you about our earthquake-preparedness program.”

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