How HP Turns Business enterprise Catastrophes to Their Gain

In oceanography, a rogue wave refers to a significant wave that pops up, seemingly out of nowhere, when numerous unlikely purely natural phenomena collide. In the deep ocean, these waves routinely sink big ships. In business enterprise, they decimate development and threat mitigation strategies. What does it acquire for your corporation not only to remain afloat when a rogue wave hits, but to actually change it to your gain? In this piece, the writer describes a 3-aspect framework for resilient development that aided HP emerge thriving immediately after a calendar year of many potentially business-ending problems. This solution — which can be adapted to any organization — involves developing consciousness of potential threats and chances on the horizon, adapting behaviors based on these traits, and making sure a tradition of open interaction, clear procedures, and a healthy balance of hierarchy and independence.

What would you do if a person of your largest rivals tried to drive a takeover, your supply chain was obliterated, and your cash cow organization imploded — pretty much right away?

This is specifically what happened to HP in early 2020. By all legal rights, the firm should have gone below. And yet, a calendar year afterwards, its profits and earnings are secure, when the printing market over-all shrank 9.4% and HP’s would-be acquirer, Xerox, has noticed a a lot more than 60% fall in earnings per share (EPS). Why did HP prosper while many others sank?

The answer lies in how HP prepared for rogue waves. In oceanography, a rogue wave refers to a significant wave that pops up, seemingly out of nowhere, when a number of unlikely natural phenomena collide. In the deep ocean, rogue waves routinely sink big ships. In enterprise, they decimate progress and hazard mitigation strategies.

Leaders generally compose off rogue waves as improbable. But in actuality, the cumulative chance of unlikely functions is really superior. In between geopolitical conflicts, well being crises, social actions, technological modifications, and many other aspects, significant shocks are essentially rather widespread. In reality, above the system of the twentieth-century, an ordinary of 4 shocks strike U.S. businesses just about every year. When they collide in the ideal way, these shocks cause rogue waves — and that is only likely to expand much more typical as the environment becomes ever much more complicated and interconnected.

Much of HP’s achievement in 2020 was thanks to its longstanding acknowledgment of the threats (and prospects) posed by rogue waves, and its intentional, proactive solution to exploiting them. As the former Global Futurist and Director of Prolonged-Phrase Investigate for HP, I was right involved with the company’s strategy to resilient progress, and due to the fact leaving HP, I’ve also carried out an considerable literature overview on the topic that informed my e-book on best procedures for pinpointing, surviving, and exploiting radical modify. Based on this perform, I’ve made a a few-move framework to describe how any group can not only remain afloat when the up coming rogue wave hits — they can turn it to their gain.

The ABCs of Resilient Progress


The initially move in preparing for rogue waves is to convince men and women they are authentic. If a firm doesn’t know why it has to adjust, it will not.

At HP, we labored to create recognition of potential pitfalls and alternatives by location up a tiny staff called the “Future Unit” to observe social, financial, and technological traits that could possibly have the prospective to blend into rogue waves. This main staff involved folks with experience in a vast selection of fields, which includes social science, plan, economics, technological innovation, and far more, and they have been inspired to be as wide as achievable in their research.

A person probable hazard this staff recognized was the growing probability of a pandemic. The mix of expanding urban density, intercontinental vacation, and growing older populations suggested that the danger was increasing lengthy right before the initial scenarios of Covid-19 were being identified.

Of system, this sort of wide hazard assessment does not are likely to map neatly to any a single team’s immediate targets or priorities. To tackle this, we built out processes to make sure these insights were shared throughout the firm, so everyone comprehended the difficulties that may possibly be on the horizon. The Long run Device frequently briefed the C-Suite and board to be certain that very long-expression strategic selections ended up educated by a comprehensive, up-to-date examination of threats and chances. We also established a greater cross-practical, worldwide team that involved reps from HR, finance, authorized, facilities, product sales, client aid, operations, advertising, and regional administrators. This group supplemented the Future Unit’s greater-degree research with a area, on-the-floor standpoint, and also helped the Foreseeable future Device to a lot more successfully disseminate key information and facts all over the firm.


When a process for keeping recognition was in place, HP’s following stage was to ensure that all levels of the group have been empowered to exploit a rogue wave if and when it strike — and that intended transforming essential behaviors to be far more responsive to developments we experienced discovered.

To that stop, the Foreseeable future Device actively coached vital choice-makers to look at these variables when organizing profits channels, world wide trade techniques, and investments in technologies, competencies, and belongings. For instance, yrs just before the coronavirus pandemic commenced, perform coming out of the Long run Unit drove HP’s investment into adapting inkjet printer engineering for medical programs these as drug advancement, vaccine exploration, and immediate diagnostic tests.

HP did not have a crystal ball — but mainly because it experienced identified pandemics as 1 of a portfolio of achievable threats, it was poised to switch that danger into an opportunity. When the coronavirus pandemic hit and decimated HP’s key current market of business office tools, the enterprise rapidly shifted its resources to double down on work-from-residence solutions as well as the wellness care systems that it by now experienced in the pipeline.


Of training course, changing behaviors depends on switching hearts and minds. Proficiently employing the methods explained above expected a tradition of open up interaction, apparent processes, and a balanced balance of hierarchy and independence. Our team prioritized guidelines that enabled a number of groups to coordinate around large-amount objectives when even now performing autonomously in direction of decreased-degree plans. We also empowered junior workers to share their views and tips with senior management.

Finally, this all boiled down to guaranteeing an atmosphere of psychological protection for our groups, but some of the tactical strategies HP utilized include things like:

  • Doing work with HR and managers to guarantee dependable and structured teams with crystal clear roles and tasks for all workers.
  • Flattening management structures in buy to reduce the time and overhead involved with employing new thoughts.
  • Defining and communicating “risk bands” that is, optimum and bare minimum concentrations of threat that employees have been envisioned to choose on.
  • Encouraging junior staff members to sit in on and guide meetings with substantial-amount executives, coaching them on interaction competencies, and building certain they have been supported even when they made errors.
  • Implementing incentives these as formal bonuses and praising staff in front of their friends to really encourage groups to emphasis on extensive-time period priorities.

As a substitute of having bogged down in shorter-expression objectives and quick wins, HP built a tradition in which all employees ended up totally free to innovate — and in which individuals impressive suggestions would truly be heard and acted on by senior leadership.


HP is far from great. But the firm has overcome plenty of hurdles over its 80 a long time due to the fact its leaders understand that the upcoming keeps coming, no subject what you do. The business didn’t specifically prepare for Covid-19, a company takeover try, a offer chain crash, or a marketplace implosion. Rather, its deeply ingrained society of preparedness (and the enhanced consciousness and behaviors that that lifestyle enabled) manufactured it resilient to a vary of probable futures. There’s no preventing rogue waves — but your resilient development technique will figure out whether or not you sink, swim, or earn the regatta when the next just one hits.