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Shock & Awe

We are not even at peak pressure but it’s not too early to start thinking about the recovery.

The principle of “shock and awe”was first set out by Sun Tsu over two thousand years ago and it is now an accepted and successful military technique: the more overwhelming and rapid the assertion of dominance, the greater the tactical and strategic success.

It depends on four characteristics:

  1. Knowledge: near total knowledge of self, adversary, and environment;

  2. Speed: rapidity and timeliness in application;

  3. Effective implementation: operational brilliance in execution; and

  4. Control and management.

So what on earth has all this to do with our current situation?

We believe a great deal.

Harlan Ullman and James Wade set out those four characteristics for the US military in 1996 but they are exactly relevant to the effective handling of the current situation by all sorts of companies and organisations.

In the current circumstances, the priority for all organisations is to acquire as much relevant information as they can, in any way they can. The more data they can gather and the more relevant it is, the more effective they can be as we head out of the crisis and into an equally challenging world of recovery. Early and constantly updated information is urgently needed on questions like:

  • What is happening in the wider sector/membership/audience?

  • How have things changed – for the better (e.g. new uses for technology) or for the worse?

  • What costs (and possibly even benefits – new approaches and techniques, etc.) have been borne or have emerged?

  • What have been the changes in the labour market, the business environment, the supply chain, the numbers of liquidations, lay-offs, etc.? What such changes are there likely to be?

  • What gaps in skills and knowledge have been revealed?

  • What behavioural issues have been revealed?

  • How has the pandemic affected mental health in measurable ways?

  • How will training and qualifications need to change?

  • What good practice is emerging? What innovative ideas? Why have some companies managed to cope while others have succumbed?

Backs against the wall

Quite apart from the stress and pressure on individuals and families, hundreds of thousands of companies and organisations are suffering.

One might naturally think that this is not the time to be bothering people with research. But, as hard as such decisions are, this is exactly the time we should be starting to prepare for the recovery – and that means knowing precisely what is out there, what lessons can be learned, what the problems are, what the solutions might be. It won’t be easy, but knowledge is essential.

Gathering valuable data to support the recovery period has to begin right now.

If research projects are in place, but are being delayed, we might consider how they can be amended to meet more pressing and urgent intelligence needs, consider how methods can be changed to make them more feasible and effective, consider how the messages can be designed to engage with highly pressured people.

If such projects are not already in place, it’s the ideal time to design new pieces of work to get at the vital information that will be crucial once things begin to improve in the wider world.

For those who are unprepared, the recovery period will be long and hard and the damage to companies and individual careers might even be irreversible.

Gather vital information, analyse it quickly, and go on the offensive to help steer the recovery.

We’re here with ideas, skills, facilities and capacity.


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