Put a frog in boiling water. It’s going to jump out. Put a frog in cold water and turn the heat on–it’ll stay in the pot and meet it’s slow end.
People are much the same. When thrown into an immediate crisis, whether it be a terrorist attack, a tsunami, or a financial collapse, people will react and react in a big way. However, when people slowly start to see signs of a crisis on the horizon they do little to stop it.
After initial relief efforts and a drive to get everything ‘business as usual’ people will work on tweaking their senses and adjusting their old habits so they can avoid, or at the very least, predict the arrival of similar disasters. They don’t want to be caught in a simmering pot again.
Take terrorism. On September 11th, 2001 the world stopped. Immediately America was put on high alert while money, muscle, and aid flowed into New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. Afterwords, America became vigilant and mandated new security rules in all airports, busy road-ways, and public transpiration hubs.
Americans, in general, became weary of mass transit, flying, and looked at long security check points as necessary.
Now, 8 years later Americans are likely to express their impatience with long airport security checks and don’t even think twice about using mass transit.
Currently, we’re in the middle of a financial crisis. Everyday we learn about bailouts, poor investments, and dwindling 401K’s. People and government agencies are creating programs and making pleas in order to reform America’s spending and investment habits so we don’t get stuck in cold water again while we’re put on a open flame.
Calls for rational investing and sound spending strategies are great. However, in a few years after things become marginally better, our old habits will emerge. People will express frustration with the financial barriers they once championed and erected.
Disasters generally have a variety of indicators and some can be spotted with the naked eye. The water recedes before a Tsunami hits, shaky CDO’s create a boom on Wall St., terrorists are allowed entry into a country. Only experience can help people accurately appraise the signs of a upcoming crisis.
However, as we have seen experience is sometimes abandoned for quicker, more immediate, pay-offs: shorter lines, less financial restrictions, or a nice beach house.
Being a good leader requires that you always look for the indicators of a crisis so you’ll always be able to side step disaster when it clumsily rounds the corner. It’s important to never trade the lessons you learned for small profits and conquests.
Knowing what to do once your in boiling water should only be a small part of your contingency plan. It’s knowing when the water is getting ever hotter that’s the true challenge.