Rescue: The response of a Digital Earth

The CEO had called an emergency company-wide meeting for noon. At precisely that time all screens turned to black, then showed the CEO live, standing knee-deep in the flooded street of a Northern European city. His opening words had been simple. “The sounds of death sometimes start quietly,” he said softly


When we reach the Age of Crisis, how will our Digital Earth outperform the crises?


Worldwide, all the company’s teleportal screens turned black again. A news report filled them, the newscaster saying, “Over two-hundred more flood warnings have been issued today as another serious coastal tidal surge comes ashore this afternoon.”

It switched to another broadcast, with a reporter in front of a group of policemen knocking on the doors of homes: “Police forces are evacuating coastal towns along the East and North coasts. People are being urged to follow all police evacuation instructions.”

It switched to a news report from a reporter in rain gear with high ocean waves crashing over a coastal road behind him, “Many defenses are being overtopped by the combined high tides, strong winds and tidal surge.”

Then a news broadcast showed a government meeting while a reporter said, “The Environment Secretary is chairing an emergency meeting on the growing need for even stronger defenses against the high tides.”

The dramatic rock music started again, with images appearing rapidly of coastal roads overtopped with waves; harbor shopping streets flooded up to ankle and knee heights; rescue crews in flooded streets pulling small zodiac rafts with elderly couples, women, children and their pets; stranded cars and trucks in flooded streets; and coastal buildings collapsed and damaged.

The music and images faded.

The CEO returned. The camera view was zoomed out. He was standing knee-deep in the flooded shopping street, surrounded on both sides by flooded stores.

“A year ago we stopped believing that high tides are normal. We think we have 5 to 10 years before bigger and more rapid crises start arriving. We finished our plan a few weeks ago but waited for this high tide to announce it. Now, as you see today’s rising sea level for yourself, one thing is clear: This is the most important all-hands meeting we have ever had.

“Frankly, we don’t know which of the coming crises will be be worse: sea level floods, extreme weather, unstable politics, resource shortages, terrorism or earthquakes. We’re here to prepare this company for a world that’s entering an age of crisis.”

“A world crisis is a turning point that’s happened many times in history. It’s the epic struggle of man versus destiny. Because we can see this age of crisis coming, we can face it head on with new ways to rise to the top.”

The CEO paused. One at a time, four executives appeared on the teleportal screens next to him. Each was their normal height next to the CEO. The bottom of their legs appeared to be in the water, but they were dressed in business casual clothes and not wet, so were obviously in their offices and not in the flooded street.

“Our strategy has appeared right in front of you,” the CEO said. “As you can see, we’re making ourselves fully digital so we can operate continuously and worldwide even when we’re surrounded by streets that are flooding, or societies that are paralyzed. When we get to that level we will still operate digitally during a crisis, in the Expandiverse, with better performance than we have today.

“There will be four main areas in which we will prepare for this age of crisis. We will become the world’s crisis experts by being ready to react instantly, know how to operate during even years of crisis conditions, and recover after it. Our expanded digital abilities in these four areas will help us prosper instead of fail.”

He pointed to each executive in turn, describing their area and what the strategy will be:

• Design and development: Employees will be distributed worldwide in safe locations, with continuous connections between all employees, with always on customers and with outside experts that live with us as part of our teams.

• Manufacturing and logistics: Switch to contractors, subcontractors and suppliers in less vulnerable locations, with continuous connections throughout the world. It will be normal to plan for catastrophic business interruptions, and deal with them as fast as they appear.

• Marketing and sales: Multiple location teams will combine digitally around the world. They will provide always on communications and support for connected customers and prospects, even when some of our locations are disrupted.

• Business operations: These will be distributed to less vulnerable locations and employees on all continents. They will operate as one continuously connected team, so everything continues even when some locations are down.

“We’re going to spend years getting ready for this. Every one of you will be part of it. Our priority will be protecting you, this company, its supply chain, retail channels and its customers.

“Once we’re digitally prepared, we will be the best place to work when the world turns dark and everyone grows afraid. We’ll be ready, and we’ll take over the market shares of companies that are damaged during each crisis. We’ll acquire our competitors when their prices hit bottom.

“Even in a very dark world, we will be a very bright light.”

He finally smiled. “But if a Digital Earth grows capable enough to avoid these crises, we’ll still be the best company to succeed in that totally connected world. It’s a win-win strategy.

“You’re part of the best group for prospering and doing well in tomorrow’s world — whether we rise above the crisis, or if today’s world starts coming to an end.”


Image credit: Shutterstock.