In 1997, author and commentator, Virginia Postrel hypothesized about how the natural climate and kinds natural disasters most common in California and the Northeast respectively influence business culture. On the heels of a major blizzard here in Boston, her article, "Resilience vs. Anticipation" still makes an entertaining read, but with a few twists.
Those of us willing to put up with difficult but largely predictable winter weather, she conjectured, tend to favor planning ('anticipation') at the expense of risk-taking and commensurately larger rewards. Those on the left coast by contrast, tend to eschew formal planning on the theory that at any minute everything may be leveled by an earthquake. The ability to bounce back from misfortune or failure is therefore a pervasive trait of Silicon Valley and conversely, much harder to find back East. Or not...
"The West is resilient and can roll with the shocks. The East copes through anticipation, the static planning that assumes perfect foresight...The weather in [Silicon Valley] is perfect. Not temperate, not tolerable, not good. Perfect... Good weather plus earthquakes [means that] a day-to-day basis, you can concentrate on your goals, with no need for contingency plans... But everything could change in an instant."
What's changed in eight years? The burst of the dot.com bubble, high penetration of broadband to the home, an increasingly cynical, independent and distributed workforce... and 9-11. Not to mention the blackout of '03. The East has learned a lot.
Since 9-11, savvy organizations (including several clients) have realized that the best business continuity plans are those that ensure an entire workforce won't be affected by the same disaster. They've amended culture, technology and policy, then allowed, (in some cases even insisted) on work-at-home arrangements. They've ensured, in short, that an enterprise can remain productive, even as all movement is curtailed.
Sure, I had to shovel my driveway, but talking with neighbors during breaks, none were concerned about interruptions to their professional obligations: resilience - both personal and corporate - enabled not encumbered by a modicum of planning. Much has changed since the blizzard of 1978 when the state shut down for a week, (with less snow) - the crisis 'managed' by central governmental planning. Lets hope that regions ravaged far far worse by the tsunami are able to bounce back too.