We had a power failure the other day, across parts of where I live in the west of Ireland, perhaps affecting – I’m wildly guessing here – 50 to 60,000 people.

In the old days, an electricity power cut as we called it would be a major inconvenience, since all your appliances would be out, and your lights too, which, if it were winter, would mean cold houses and candles.

These days, especially during the working day, a power cut is a disaster. No electricity means – you’ve guessed it – no Internet. In a place with poor mobile signal, it also means you’re effectively off the grid. I couldn’t even vent my frustration adequately on Twitter, since I was reliant on my signal booster box – powered by electricity – to use my mobile phone.

All of which reminded me of how vulnerable we still are to the single point of failure that is our infrastructure and its systems. When a major travel accident results in thousands of travellers being inconvenienced, who compensates them for that? Similarly, when the power goes, who compensates thousands of paying consumers for the loss of productivity, or the loss of money invested in frozen food which thaws during a prolonged outage?

In the Cold War in the UK, we used to say that the Russians would wait for 2 inches of snow before they invaded; the country would be at a standstill. Our traffic infrastructure was – and still is to a degree – our single point of failure.

It still feels like that these days when the rubber bands and string of our major power infrastructures fail.

All of which leads me onto parallels with work. None of us in my opinion should be a single point of failure at work.

I’ve heard it said that you should try to make yourself indispensable, but that leads some people to become islands of information and jealously protect processes that only they know. I used to work with one such guy in a marketing agency and he was called the Mac Mason. My view is that the best staff are the ones who strive to make themselves dispensable, through leadership and innovation. And if your employers are dumb enough or political enough to make this a reason to get rid of you, then you’re better off out of there, they don’t deserve you.

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