Corporate governance principles do not follow a one-size-fits-all approach.
Posted on Forbes | By Vladislava Ryabota
That would elude the local contexts in which companies operate, which are key to understanding practices and behaviours as well as expectations of investors. This is important because each country’s legal framework is built on historical choices and subsequent developments.
No system is better than any other. However, local and national specifics cannot ignore the trends of globalisation, the free and immediate flow of information, as well as the resulting access for investors and stakeholders. Events in one part of the world can have global consequences and impact any economy. Every time an economic crisis unfolds, investors learn to their expense that some companies they invested in did not follow good governance principles. Thus, investors realise that financial data alone cannot give the full picture to provide the comfort that the company not only talks the talk, but also walks it.
Therefore, over the years, corporate governance has become a predominant topic in discussions related to investments, joint ventures and partnerships.
Good governance also enables companies to gain reputation, which brings with it access to talent, new customers and public recognition.
Cape Town is in the unenviable situation of being the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water.
Posted on BBC
The plight of the drought-hit South African city is just one extreme example of a problem that experts have long been warning about – water scarcity. Despite covering about 70% of the Earth’s surface, water, especially drinking water, is not as plentiful as one might think. Only 3% of it is fresh.
Over one billion people lack access to water and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year. A 2014 survey of the world’s 500 largest cities estimates that one in four are in a situation of “water stress”.
According to UN-endorsed projections, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Cape Town is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are the other 11 cities most likely to run out of water.
When a business experiences the nightmare of multiple fatalities on its watch, its public communication must be open, human and consistent.So, where does a thriving listed company draw the line between empathy and “business as usual” when communicating with different audiences about such a tragedy?
The next day, CEO Anthony Ritter’s media statement ticked the boxes of effective crisis communication. He outlined the facts as known by the company and conveyed the depth of the tragedy through heartfelt words and delivery. He also covered significant actions such as the suspension of skydiving at Mission Beach and the company’s cooperation with investigators.But the Skydive Australia website contains also an ASX announcement – difficult to find in the investors’section – which acknowledges the tragedy but is circumspect about the details; describing an accident “near the company’s Mission beach dropzone.”
For decades, video games have had a fascination with the end of the world. Why is it that we find it so enjoyable to play games set in the ashes of our civilisation?
Video games are, in a way, the perfect medium through which to depict the post-apocalypse. If we assume that after the collapse of civilisation everyone will revert to a brutal state of nature, then violence is the natural engine of the drama. And video games are very good at violence.
Indeed, in many video games the actual end of the world is simply an excuse to create a world filled with nothing but repetitive violence against monsters, without any annoying interruption by law enforcement or other social constraints.
So it goes in some of the early video game arcade hits, such as Robotron 2084 (1982), in which a lone hero must shoot his way out of a series of rooms populated by the robots that have taken over, in order to save the last human family on Earth. More eerily beautiful, meanwhile, is the post-apocalypse of British designer Sandy White’s classic 3D Ant Attack (1983), which is set in the walled desert city of Antescher – the reference to the Dutch artist Escher is deliberate.
This place, long empty of humans after some distant tragedy, is now filled with giant ants. In it, a boy and girl enact a wordless love story while evading and throwing bombs at the pitiless insects. It is a masterpiece of monochrome minimalism: a couple of stick figures in an isometric wasteland of grey blocks haunted by the horrible snicketing noise of giant ants. No game since has better evoked the bittersweet melancholy of romance in the face of certain doom.
Most often, though, the video game post apocalypse is populated by one very specific type of monster: zombies. Apocalyptic fiction through history has often been a dramatisation of the social concerns of the time in which it is composed. The Book of Revelation, for example, assures early Christians that accommodation with the Roman Empire is unnecessary and that Jesus will return.
And ever since the first of the late George Romero’s classic movies, the zombie is the monster that most uncomfortably reflects modern anxieties about issues from unthinking consumerism to pandemic disease. So it is, too, in video games, where zombies have the added virtue of being enemies that we feel no qualms about killing, whereas depicting human beings of a different race or nationality as deserving cannon fodder is often a politically dubious decision.
So, what is your favorite apocalypse video game? Please share with us in the comment section below!
A year ago Canada dodged a terrorist bullet when the almost 25-year old Muslim convert Aaron Driver climbed into a cab outside his sister’s home in Strathroy, a small town not quite 40 km from London, Ontario, set off an explosive device that didn’t do a lot of damage to either himself or the taxi, and was killed probably by police gunfire when he exited the vehicle in possession of a second bomb.
The RCMP had been on the scene because it had received notice from the FBI earlier that day of an online video in which an apparent Canadian pledged allegiance to Islamic State and said he would carry out an attack somewhere that day.
In the aftermath of the incident critics came from every direction. Why did it take the FBI to tell our police that Mr. Driver posed a threat? Why didn’t we know more given that he was on a peace bond with very strict conditions? How was he able to make a martyrdom video and a bomb since he was not supposed to have access to online communications? Did the police put the cab driver at unnecessary risk (NB the cab driver is seeking some compensation for his ordeal)? Why wasn’t Mr. Driver, whom everyone seems to claim had a ‘challenged’ upbringing, accorded more help? And so on and so on.
What is most interesting, to me at least, is that little of the criticism has originated with anyone with any background in counter terrorism. Lorne Dawson of the University of Waterloo aside, few commentators, Mr. Driver’s lawyer included, have really had anything interesting to add to this case. In the interests of adding what I hope to be some valuable commentary – based on 30+ years experience in intelligence and CT – to this unfortunate ordeal I have decided to pen this column.
First and foremost, the accusation that the RCMP was negligent in protecting the cab driver is not well-founded. In cases like these events happen quickly and not everything is crystal clear as it appears in TV shows like 24. The fact is that the RCMP acted appropriately and impressively: recall that they did not know who was in the video shared by the FBI and that it was thanks to a sharp analyst (NB I am always a fan of the analysts!) that it was determined that Aaron Driver was the ‘man in the mask’. The situation was indeed fluid and no one can predict in advance what twists and turns these events take. In the end there was an element of luck in that Mr. Driver proved to be a poor bombmaker and that the cabbie was not seriously injured (I am NOT playing down the psychological impact of what he went through). Successful counterterrorism is always a combination of skill and luck.
Next, we are still no closer to figuring out who radicalises to violence and why. Mr. Driver’s complicated life undoubtedly played a role in his (poor) decision making but nothing in his past was either a sufficient or a necessary cause for his eventual embrace of terrorism. If broken families and childhood trauma were of any real influence in the creation of terrorists, Canada would have millions of violent extremists. The fact that there is no evidence in support of this should remind us that there are no easy answers to the complex question of radicalisation. Prediction in terrorism is a fool’s game and yet fools continue to play it.
Lastly, nor are we any closer to determining whether peace bonds are useful anti-terrorism tools. While I understand why they are deployed they nevertheless are labour intensive implements and we know that no police force can monitor a lot of people indefinitely. Mr. Driver was judged to be of minimal threat based on what we knew then: of course, 20-20 hindsight being what it is, we were wrong but it is not obvious that we should have known that at the time. As a result, we continue to place potentially dangerous people on peace bonds and we hope that none of these progresses like Mr. Driver did.
We need to acknowledge a few things on this anniversary of the ‘Strathroy situation’. We are at a relatively manageable terrorist threat and that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Men like Aaron Driver will continue to radicalise to violence: some will leave to join terrorist groups like IS or Al Qaeda and some will strike here, but overall these events will be rare. We will still struggle with keeping Canadians safe while respecting human rights and counter terrorism will never be perfect.
One last point. Despite his best efforts, Aaron Driver killed no one and died for his ideology. And for that we have the RCMP and its partners to thank. Maybe it is good to sit back and put things in perspective rather than panic and point fingers at those we think failed us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. He worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism. He has spoken to audiences about terrorism across Canada and the US and around the world. firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s no shortage of corporate drama. Our news feeds have been clogged with an endless parade of companies unraveling before our eyes. Just a few examples: Uber, Tesla, that notorious Pepsi ad, United Airlines, and a string of corporate security breaches.
The minute I see news about companies in trouble, I send good thoughts to the PR team. It’s their lot in life to tend to any issue that gets public attention—planned or unplanned. And let me assure you, those unplanned emergencies are tough. As a veteran of Google and Twitter’s communications teams, I’ve been privy to a variety of corporate flare-ups.
In both places I was the editorial lead, and worked closely with the PR folks to plot the timing and the message of company statements, follow ups, and employee updates. When a final statement (or apology, or explanation) was ready, I would apply the final polish to the copy—which had, of course, been vetted and revised by umpteen others—before hitting “publish” to the company blog.
Given the near-incessant stream of corporate gaffes we’re seeing lately, it’s easy to assume that clueless PR teams are behind the ham-handed responses—or more aggravating, the radio silences. So consider this a peek behind the curtain of how crisis management operates against the clock and through news cycles.
First, do not assume that all crises are the same. The main flavors:
Self-inflicted. Bad behavior, neglect, bad hires or fires, or bad customer experience. These often start with leaks, public accusations, or real-time reports that are difficult to ignore—we won’t soon forget that passenger video on United.
Unanticipated data error. This may be financial, or a technical data blunder that has some consequence, but is not based on malfeasance. (i.e.: Google Street View data collection in 2010)
Public misinformation. Incorrect information originating from outside the company— say from a misguided politician, unhappy users, or incurious reporters. (i.e.: This 2004 Gmail case)
Outside forces. Some problems come from outside the company. (i.e.: Hacks and security breaches—Sony 2014 data breach, Yahoo’s 2014-17 woes—executive kidnappings—Adobe, 1992—or the effects of terrorism.)
Each of these has its own playbook, but they all share a process. Each situation is a race against the clock—the longer you do nothing, the more chances increase that you can’t regain control of the story, and will helplessly watch it cascade into more bad press and public hubbub.
With new technology comes a variety of applications that can have tremendous benefits to organizations, society – and, of course, the way we handle emergency management.
Technology gives emergency management a new way of handling the given crisis, and perhaps, a new perspective for how to use resources a bit more effectively. Drones have been in the news a lot lately with some of the policies that have come about about their uses in the federal government. Similar to other pieces of technology that are developed for the military, drones have an interesting application in emergency management and are giving emergency personnel new ways to manage a developing crisis.
Emergency Management Applications for Drones
Prior to the creation of drones, emergency managers would often figure out the overall scope of a crisis using information from emergency personnel on the ground, and through the chain of command created through the Incident Command System. Drones, however, allow for Emergency Managers to evaluate a serious situation with the use of a drone potentially complimenting the information they have from personnel.
In other circumstances, the use of drones prevents personnel from entering a potentially hazardous scene before emergency managers understand exactly what they’re dealing with. To this end, drones can be used by the fire department as described by Frank Schroth in an article published by Drone Life. Drones are also being used by Police departments and by Search and Rescue departments with clever uses depending on the given emergency. Drones can also come with infrared imaging that can be tremendously helpful in a large variety of incidents.
A Different Perspective
Drones provide a very different perspective to an emergency manager reviewing all of the information for an incident. Used as a complimentary tool, drones can provide a lot of information for a large variety of incidents. In some cases, drones tremendously assist with the rescue efforts of people that may have been more difficult to rescue without its assistance. One elderly man was rescued because of an individual using a drone. They were able to find him when the drone provided aerial footage 200 feet above the ground enabling a Search and Rescue team to rescue him.
In a catastrophic event, most people fail to do the one thing that would save their life.
John Leach, a military survival instructor who researches behaviour in extreme environments at the University of Portsmouth, has studied the actions of survivors and victims from dozens of disasters around the world over several decades (and as it happens he was present at one of them, the fire at King’s Cross underground station on 18 November 1987 which killed 31 people).
He has found that in life-threatening situations, around 75% of people are so bewildered by the situation that they are unable to think clearly or plot their escape. Just 15% of people on average manage to remain calm and rational enough to make decisions that could save their lives. The remaining 10% are plain dangerous: they freak out and hinder the survival chances of everyone else.
Stories about survival often focus on the 15%, and what is so special about them that helps them stay alive. But Leach thinks this is the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking, why do so many people die when they need not, when they have the physical means to save themselves? In most disaster scenarios, he says, you don’t need special skills to survive. You just need to know what you should do.
We haven’t always had a clear picture of what people really do in emergencies. Yet as cases in recent decades began to show, the real challenge is getting people to move quickly enough. On 22 August 1985, 55 people died in a Boeing 737 on the runway at Manchester Airport in the UK after the plane suffered engine failure during take-off. The government’s Air Accident Investigations Branch reported: “Perhaps the most striking feature of this accident was the fact that although the aircraft never became airborne and was brought to a halt in a position which allowed an extremely rapid fire-service attack on the external fire, it resulted in 55 deaths.”
Rather than madness, or an animalistic stampede for the exits, it is often people’s disinclination to panic that puts them at higher risk.
The prevailing psychological explanation for these kinds of behaviours – passivity, mental paralysis or simply carrying on as normal in the face of a crisis – is that they are caused by a failure to adapt to a sudden change in the environment. Survival involves goal-directed behaviour: you feel hungry, you look for food; you feel isolated, you seek companionship. Normally, this is straightforward (we know how to find food or companions). But in a new, unfamiliar environment, particularly a stressful one such as a sinking ship or a burning aircraft, establishing survival goals – where the exit is and how to get to it – requires a lot more conscious effort.
“In emergencies, quite often events are happening faster than you can process them,” explains Leach. The situation outruns our capacity to think our way out of it.
This explains why in emergencies people often fail to do things that under normal circumstances would seem obvious. So the only reliable way to shortcut this kind of impaired thinking, most survival experts agree, is by preparing for an emergency in advance.
Commentators often highlight the supposed stupidity or madness of crowds during disasters – a stampede of pilgrims, the crush of a football crowd, the blind scramble for the exits in a burning nightclub. In reality, this is rarely what happens. “In emergencies, the norm is cooperation,” says Chris Cocking, who studies crowd behaviour at the University of Brighton. “Selfish behaviour is very mild and tends to be policed by the crowd rather than spreading.”
Survival is less about heroic actions than avoiding mindless mistakes.
“I’ll never forget the sound. The sound of metal crunching,” says George Larson, a passenger on Indian Airlines Flight 440 from Chennai (Madras) to New Delhi in 1973. It was 22:30 – pitch black outside. A storm was raging, and the plane was flying low. The rear end slammed into the ground first. Larson was thrown from his seat.
The next thing Larson knew he was awake, lying on his back on some wreckage. He tried to move his legs, but he was stuck. Soon there was an explosion as the heat ignited fuel tanks by the wings. As debris rained down all around him, Larson realised he’d have to save himself. With one last breath – “it seared my lungs, the air was so hot” – he pushed off the wreckage and rolled down onto the ground. Then he clawed his way to safety. Of 65 passengers and crew on board, Larson was one of just 17 survivors.
Surprisingly, plenty of other people in deadly scenarios don’t act fast enough to save their own lives. From arguing over small change while a ship sinks into stormy water, to standing idly on the beach as a tsunami approaches, psychologists have known for years that people make self-destructive decisions under pressure. Though news reports tend to focus on miraculous survival, if people escape with their lives it’s often despite their actions – not because of them.
“Survival training isn’t so much about training people what to do – you’re mostly training them not to do certain things that they would normally think to do,” says John Leach, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who survived the King’s Cross fire disaster in 1987. He estimates that in a crisis, 80-90% of people respond inappropriately.
So, if faced with a life-threatening scenario, what behaviours should you do your best to avoid?
During the recent stabbing at London Bridge, an off-duty police officer who tackled the attackers reportedly described members of the public nearby as standing “like deers in the headlights”.
The reaction is so universal, psychologists now talk of the fight-flight-freeze response.
Though it looks passive from the outside, when we’re paralysed with fear the brain is actively putting on the brakes. As adrenaline surges through the body and our muscles tense, the primitive “little brain” at the base of our necks sends a signal to keep us rooted to the spot. It’s the same mechanism across the animal kingdom, from rats to rabbits, where it’s a last-ditch attempt to stop a predator from spotting us. But in a disaster, fighting this hangover from our days out on the savannah is vital to survival.
2. INABILITY TO THINK
The first clues that our brains tend to go into meltdown under stress came from an alarming discovery.
Even at the best of times, our brains are disconcertingly slow – while disasters are rapid. As part of the certification process, aeroplane manufacturers are required to show that the entire plane can be evacuated in just 90 seconds, since studies have shown that the risk of the cabin being consumed by fire sharply increases after this time. Meanwhile, most of us are still fumbling with our seatbelts.
3. TUNNEL VISION
In a crisis, it’s reassuring to think that we’d respond by creatively thinking our way around the problem. But – you guessed it, it’s the opposite. A typical response to disaster is so-called “perseveration” – attempting to solve a problem in a single way, again and again and again, regardless of the results. This happens so often, it’s informed the design of seatbelts in light aircraft.
Because people are used to looking for their seatbelts around their hips, in an emergency that’s the only place they look. Previous designs used to involve a buckle higher up, but in the panic of a crash-landing, people just couldn’t handle it. Other incidents have shown that in a crisis, pilots tend to become obsessed with one item of equipment or response.
Intriguingly, this tunnel vision is also seen in those who have permanently damaged their prefrontal cortex, suggesting that the brain’s stress response switching off this region might be to blame for inflexible thinking in moments of crisis.
How you plan for and respond to a crisis could make a world of difference. Are you prepared?
Every company – tech-focused or not – will eventually face a crisis. An unhappy and outspoken customer, an egregious misstep by an employee, a product malfunction. Yet, half of U.S. companies don’t have a crisis communication plan. Rather than a nice-to-have, you need to think of this as a must-have insurance policy against something that could, at best be an annoyance and at worst, sink your business.
Here, are outlined the basic elements of a solid crisis communications plan to help you get started just in case you ever need it.
What could go wrong?
Some crises can’t be predicted, but many can. Begin by doing a “vulnerability audit” on your company. Talk with everyone from your entry-level developers to your CTO, and ask them what could possibly go wrong. Once you have a list of seven to 10 potential events, think through how these scenarios could play out. Prepare general talking points around each topic that can be used regardless of the situational details.
For example, every cloud-based app company should know how to talk about their commitment to user security and privacy. This will form the building blocks for your response in the event of a data breach.
When to act?
When formulating your plan, consider a checklist-based, protocol format so your team has a clear set of steps to follow. The goal is to act quickly by following a logical order of tasks and responses during what could be a very emotional time.
The first order of business will be contacting your shareholders. Depending on how contained the crisis is, the media could be knocking at your door within a matter of minutes. However, before making any public statements, you must inform those who are most affected by the situation. In the case of a true emergency, law enforcement and regulatory bodies should be contacted immediately. Establishing a dynamic communication channel will ensure that you can route updated information to employees as it becomes available.
Who will speak?
When a crisis hits, the last thing you want is to be scrambling over who should talk to the media. Dealing with the press and addressing the public requires skill and practice, so choose a spokesperson early and wisely.
All other staff, board and committee members should be helpful to the media by connecting them with the spokesperson for further information.
How to respond?
Once you have your spokesperson lined up, how exactly should they respond to the media?
Do’s: It all starts with messaging. Expand on your situational talking points by crafting a well-prepared elevator speech that describes what you do well, incorporating your company values, beliefs, commitments and mission.
It’s also important to remain honest and also to have a talking point or two about what the company will learn from the situation at-hand.
Don’ts: Never speculate. Stick to facts. Don’t be afraid to respectfully redirect a question. For example, if a reporter says, “I understand this may have been in inside job,” don’t fall for it. Simply restate the facts and your key messages. “We know that some 100,000 records were comprised. Our investigation is underway and we are fully cooperating with the FBI.”
“No comment” is never acceptable. It looks like you have something to hide. If the question cannot be answered due to a corporate policy (such as sharing personnel information) let the inquirer know that.
What are the consequences of a botched crisis response? I think Samsung has shown us what can be lost in the fallout of an extreme crisis situation, but the importance of positive media relations, both in crisis mode and everyday communications, cannot be overstated.
If your crisis management plan is your insurance, then consider friendly media relationships another form of reputational currency. Believe me: when all hell breaks loose, you will be thankful to have some good karma in the bank.
I’m a traditional kind of guy. I would describe myself as a bit of a romantic fool. It’s in my genes. I like old black & white movies. I like little hand written notes; leaving notes and receiving them.
All this, even though I consider my handwriting to be average if not scruffy! I still write using a rule to make sure it’s neat and tidy. A little bit OCD perhaps but that’s my traditional way of doing it. I feel more resilient that way; more comfortable and safe.
I was talking to someone lately in a business meeting and we were discussing resilience communication; how we communicate it and more importantly, how will it be communicated in the future. This isn’t in relation to the fantastic platforms we have in Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
But in these ‘capabilities’ we see and recognise the potential for making people aware of a crisis. How fantastic and grateful we should be to have these platforms literally in the palms of our hands, not just for our personal but for our professional lives too; helping the world to be a bit more resilient and safer.
Communication has changed and will continue to do so – simplicity is the key
If you’re like me (I don’t mean an old romantic with dodgy handwriting), you can’t remember the last time you wrote a letter by hand. The thought of that ‘lost skill’ and experience is a little bit sad but that’s life, we have progressed as the world and technology developed; we have become more selfish and precious with our time which means we can save the time of writing out letters and just text or post something instantly. #lol
Of course, technology has played a massive role in this capability to message instantly and lessened the need to put pen to paper. All because our world now means we can ‘save time’ by doing things fundamentally different to the way we did it in the past. It’s far simpler now to text and post than it was even five years ago. #emoji
Building and communicating resilience
The resilience profession needs to look at the learning opportunities given to us of how things have changed over time in the simple practice of handwritten letters to instant messaging; we need to think about the current processes and methodologies of how we communicate and expect businesses to be more resilient in the future.
If we do things now because it ‘saves us time’ but still has the effect/end result, then traditional methodologies of business resilience need to move with and be ahead of the time when thinking about the future. Traditional ways will still be needed of course and should be encouraged where appropriate.
But people and businesses will demand and want business resilience to be achievable, affordable and available in different formats in the future, simply because, times have changed! #simplicityinresilience
Lots of love
When was the last time you wrote a letter by hand? Do you agree with Paul? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – An international business resilience leader, Paul Kudray is a Fellow of the EPC and a Fellow of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (FICPEM). He is a Lead Auditor for ISO 22301. In 2014 he founded his own consultancy and he is an excellent forward thinking resilience innovator and blogger. email@example.com.