May 6, 2011

Avoiding The Ultimate In Surprise

Everyone remember the I Love Lucy show? Well, that show really epidemized what it meant to surprise and be surprised by all the antics that the main character, Lucy, got into--show after show.

One thing that's very clear is that no one really likes surprises (except maybe for some comic relief and that's one reason I believe the show was the most popular season after season).

So what's the problem with surprises? They are not inherently bad--there can be good surprise and bad ones.

The issue is really that people want to be prepared for whatever is coming there way.

Even surprise parties or gifts somehow seem sweeter when the recipient isn't completely "taken by surprise."

One of my bosses used to often repeat to the team, "I don't like surprises!"

Hence, the importance of what we all got in the habit of saying--communicate, communicate, communicate--early and often.

With the tragic tornados that struck last week across the south killing some 329 people, we are reminded how important early warning to surprises in life can be.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that new technologies are being developed for early warning of these tornados such as:

- Visual cues--Antennas that can track cloud-to-loud lighting, which is often invisible from the ground, but it "drops sharply in a storm just before a tornado develops" and can therefore provide early detection for those that can see it.

- Sound waves--Using "infrasonic microphones" we can pick up storm sounds from as far as 500 miles away at frequencies too low to be detected by the human ear and can filter out the noise to track the storm's severity and speed, and therefore hear in advance if it is turning dangerous.

Early warning saves lives...even a few extra minutes can provide the much needed time for a person to get to a shelter.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 230,000 people, an early warning system was put in place there and again with the the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, we see the ongoing need for these efforts to advance globally.

These efforts for early detection and alerts have always been around.

Already thousands of years ago, settlers built lookout towers and fire signals to get and give early notice of an advancing army, marauders, dangerous beasts, or other pending dangers.

Nowadays, we have satellites and drones providing "eyes in the sky" and other technologies (like the proverbial trip wires and so on) are being developed, refined, and deployed to protect us.

Advance warning and preparation is important for risk management and life preservation and leveraging technology to the max for these purposes is an investment that is timeless and priceless.

The challenge is in identifying the greatest risks (i.e. those with the most probability of happening and the biggest impact if they do) so that we can make our investments in the technologies to deal with them wisely.


No comments: