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Prof Sir David | How to survive a crisis

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Unexpected GOP House Bill to avert a government shutdown

The last-minute budget deal passed by House Republicans over the weekend to avert a US government shutdown was an unexpected near-term positive development. By the end of last week, a shutdown lasting up to two weeks was widely anticipated by most analysts. The motion to vacate against House Speaker majority leader Kevin McCarthy, to be put forward this week by the GOP Freedom Caucus, was also expected.

Former Head of GCHQ & UK Intelligence Coordinator on crisis survival

While financial crises can lead to undesirable economic outcomes, they present a unique opportunity for market participants to differentiate themselves from the pack. Relying on a reality distortion field, as some entrepreneurs do, can be unhelpful when successfully navigating through a financial crisis. There is a saying in neurosurgery that “even a gorilla can be trained to operate, but it is only when things go wrong that the skillful surgeon comes to light”, Nevertheless, better preparedness goes a long way in helping.

Former UK equivalent to the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to meet with Sir David Omand, a visiting professor in War Studies at King's College London, to discuss his latest book, “How to Survive a Crisis“. As the former Head of the UK's top Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Intelligence Coordinator—equivalent to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the US—Omand shares some key lessons drawn from his time in government overseeing several crisis situations unfold. The events ranged from the Falklands War in the early 1980s to the 1990s civil war in Bosnia. In previous updates, we covered some of the techniques Omand describes that are used by US and UK intelligence analysts to sift through troves of inbound information and to mitigate cognitive bias.

According to our conversation with Sir Omand, the term “crisis” is often overused to describe most emergency situations. Moreover, the common expression “crisis management” is a bit of a misnomer because when a real crisis strikes, it cannot be controlled; instead, the crisis manages you. In recent years, there have been many financial crises ranging in severity, from the most extreme in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers to those less extreme, such as the failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVP). The bailout rescue of Credit Suisse serves as a prime example of poor handling of a crisis situation.

An outstanding intelligence analysts amongst his peers

Over the years, we have had the privilege of conducting interviews with several top former US and UK intelligence officials, among them Professor Sir Omand. Sir Omand's former colleagues have consistently lauded his exceptional intelligence and his status as an outstanding intelligence analyst. He is known for his inclination to avoid the spotlight, choosing instead to devote his career to public service. We hope that you will find our interview with Sir David both enjoyable and enlightening, much as we did.

Speevr Interview with Prof Sir David Omand: How to survive a crisis


Key highlights

Introduction (0:00)

Former Head of GCHQ and UK Intelligence Coordinator (1:03)

What is “How to Survive a Crisis” about? (1:23)

Motivations for writing the book (1:37)

The difference between an emergencies, crisis and disasters (1:53)

Can crisis be averted and why are the risks higher today? (4:03)

You don't manage a crisis, the crisis manages you (7:01)

What are common characteristics of an impending crisis? (7:22)

Good practices to help survive a crisis (10:38)

Falkland's War, GCHQ and Margaret Thatcher (10:59)

1990s Bosnia civil war (12:55)

How should an organization construct a crisis survival plan? (15:01)

What are the key principles of crisis survival planning? (18:48)

The role of good leadership in a crisis situation (21:52)

Is Darwinism the best way to incentivize the private sector for crisis preparations? (23:20)

Who is responsible for crisis planning and how? (26:07)

Are some people naturally better at handling crisis situations? (30:43)

When is it appropriate to make personnel changes in the middle of a crisis? (32:58)

Prof Sir David | How to survive a crisis | Speevr
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Prof Sir David | How to survive a crisis

Former UK top intelligence official shares key lessons on crisis survival skills