We all know that life is a terribly slender thread and things like a mis-timed jay-walk can change a life irrevocably.

So it is with business I think. It’s not as final but in a split-second it can turn things on their head for quite a while.

I was at a sales kick-off conference more than 10 years ago, and there were about 15 to 20 of us around a U-shaped arrangement of desks, with our laptops already in use, stealing a few moments before the sessions – and in between them no doubt – to get some day-to-day business done before knuckling down to the meeting.

The walkway between the delegates and the wall was a sea of cables. Walking back to my seat, I tripped on a power cable that was curving up from the floor, yanking off the laptop in the process. The laptop belonged to to a rep, a lady who was a super person and whom I respected a lot. The laptop landed on the floor edge-first. Inevitably it broke. The screen went completely blank.

If you’ve been in this situation you’ll know that if you can’t see what’s on screen, you can’t save your work, power down, restart, interrogate the machine, anything. So imagine you’re this person. You’ve a mountain of things to do, let alone the time you’re giving up for the SKO. You’re a thousand miles from home, with a pre-smartphone-era phone.

I was understandably extremely apologetic and the lady in question was obviously pretty distraught but took it in good spirit as the genuine accident that it was. But in the blink of an eye, I’d turned her day from a good one, to an awful few days.

So how can you legislate for these sudden bumps in the road? It’s the standard answer: you plan for them as far as is economical for you to do, and you hope for the best. The hotel venue could have been configured so that sockets, cables and plugs ran from the centre of the room or from under the tables. Everyone could, I suppose, carry 2 laptops around with them, both synched, which is a touch overkill for an eventuality that might occur once in your lifetime. Or you simply hope that the split-second slip-up won’t get you and simply get on with it if it does.

 

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