One of the characteristics of a disruption is that one has to deal with a new situation for the first time. Hence, almost by definition, one doesn’t have any prior experience to draw upon, and often no existing framework to use.
Does that mean that radically new situations must be dealt with without referring to the past experience? In their book, “Thinking in time”, Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May think not. They argue that there is always an analog, ie a past situation decision makers can refer to, but on the conditions that the similarities and differences with the present situation be clearly understood.
To that effect, the authors suggest the use of a simple framework. Each analog is analyzed along three dimension: what are the similarities with the present situation? What are the differences? And then, what are the implications of these similarities and differences? By using this framework with several analog, decision makers can make better use of past experience.
Neustadt and May’s book is widely known within the political science field, but it seems little known in business circle, and that is a pity. Many of the concepts they develop can apply to business situations, and in particular when facing a disruption. So the framework can be used in the context of innovation and strategic surprise where the challenge is always to react to an entirely new situation that was unexpected.
Reference: Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, “Thinking in time, The use of history for decision makers”, Free Press, 1986.