Unframing the End of the World


The outlook for humanity isn’t good.

A new research paper suggests that the entire species could be extinct by 2050.

In thirty years from now, a few huddled survivors could be reading Fearlessly Frank’s blog from a stone tablet, or lines scratched crudely into scorched earth with a stick, lit only by the flickering flame from a homemade torch.

Obviously, this would be a disaster for your company. Or…would it?

Bear with us. The interesting thing about economic downturns, Brexits, apocalypses (maybe) and generally any adverse circumstances that hit the market and the wider world is that often, a number of businesses are able to turn the misfortune into a fortune.

Sometimes it’s obvious. In the wake of a natural disaster like a hurricane, debris removal specialists tend to clean up in more ways than one. Survival companies — those who usually sell bottled water and dew-point calculators for the purposes of extreme hiking and such — are well-placed to capitalise on the small hardcore of people who are currently actively prepping for nuclear apocalypse and have been since, well, maybe November 2016, to pick a purely coincidental date with no political significance whatsoever.

And there has recently been brisk money in converting abandoned silos into fortified bunkers to protect the super-wealthy from disaster.

But — assuming that there’s anyone left after 2050 — any business can, and will be obliged to, alter their business as usual to adapt to the new circumstances. Nearly any adverse scenario can be turned into a golden opportunity for a business with a good, creative idea.

Take The Big Yellow Storage Company, for example. Right now, this company essentially buys large-scale units as cheaply as possible, usually on industrial farms on the outskirts of towns and cities, and charges customers to securely store their belongings. Now imagine the year is 2051, and civilisation as we know it lies in smoking ruins. Such a company would be extremely well-placed to turn itself into an indispensable service-provider.

For one thing, all that secure space could double up as secure lodgings — so, if climate apocalypse looks anything like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, customers can pay to sleep somewhere relatively save from roving gangs of marauders.

Then there’s the question of material goods. In a doomsday scenario, money may lose a degree of value; but medical supplies, food, firestarting equipment and sharpened sticks (for carving messages into the dirt, or fending off hungry animals) become nearly invaluable, since the capitalist system that currently makes these amenities plentiful and replaceable will be destroyed. Customers would pay large amounts for a safe place to stash their scavenged belongings.

In fact, the company could expand its business model from large, remote facilities to provide dead-drops around the country; assuming that our lifestyles will be increasingly nomadic after supply-chain breakdown and increasing crime turns towns and cities from mutually-protective strongholds to violent and impoverished danger-zones, foragers can essentially benefit from secure, small and regular outposts for the stashing of bandages, bottled water and ammunition.

It may be a bleak future – and, indeed, a fanciful one – but the purpose of Fearlessly Frank’s Unframing tool is neither to correctly predict the future, nor recommend that companies monopolise on disaster by profiting from human misery. It’s simply to help companies slip out of comfortable mindsets – and, above all, the assumption that things will always remain the same, allowing business as usual to continue uninterrupted.

We probably can’t give you an accurate roadmap for getting rich after a global catastrophe, any more than we can predict how and when it will happen; but we can say with some certainty that large-scale change will happen to your business, whether it’s in the form of total earthly armageddon, a religious rapture or a market fluctuation caused by an unseen disruptor.

Change happens, big and small, and the strongest businesses are those who know how to adapt. Nimbleness and agility are some of the most important – and, yet, neglected – qualities that exist in business, with companies usually preferring the security of routine to the potential of innovation.

Whether it’s a market catastrophe that can reward a fleet-footed brand, a market boom with hidden consequences, a sudden technological breakthrough, or any other shockwave that hits the market, it’s not enough to be able to withstand change – it must be actively seized, mitigated, or taken advantage of by companies with the creativity and courage to do so.

That is the mindset we try to instill in the businesses we work with – because in a world where everyone is in the dark, sometimes the best tool you can have is a homemade torch.