You’ve heard ad nauseum of the ‘black swan’ of risk, but have you heard the one about the dovekie and the goosefish? The dovekie is a little Arctic puffin that flies out into the open ocean from its rocky nests in the cliffs onshore to scoop small fish and insects from shallow depths offshore. Until now its greatest risks have been thought to be the gull, the fox, and the occasional Nor’easter disrupting its feed and blowing it inland. Strange then, to find dovekie bits in the stomachs of goosefish, bottom-dwellers, mottled like the mud and sand in which they feed, found out even at depths of more than 3,000 feet. Rather disturbingly flattened into an appearance of teeth and mouth, they are mostly netted by bottom-trawling; goosefish don’t even swim particularly well. In fact they skulk down in the bottom mud and wave a fin, luring even large swimming fish for an apparent bite to eat, and open their own wide mouths for the prey to swim right in. How do dovekies and goosefish even meet, worlds apart? Is the goosefish the dovekie’s ‘black swan’ event? Or is the goosefish lying in wait for feeding dovekie, offshore, nearshore, an ever-present predatory danger?
Neither. Anne Richards, a NOAA researcher, concludes from tagging studies that goosefish merely meet hapless fishing dovekie in the water column from spring to fall as bottom-dweller goosefish migrate with surface currents to spawn over deep water. A marine opportunist, the goosefish will apparently eat whatever prey comes its way.
So what can you take home about risk from the hapless dovekie? We know that beyond the “black swan” risks, beyond the risks that you can clearly see, some risks you can only see from the perspective of your predator, that ultimate of ‘stakeholders’ that lie in your way. However, you can only think like a predator if you know who they are. It’s not enough to know your predator when you see one. You have to anticipate where they are.
You and your supply chain are in no one single place and every place changes over time. You have to examine all of your environments over time to see what predators migrate in from season to season, economic cycle to economic cycle. The most potent predator may not be the one coming in for prey. Yes, sometimes when you think they are out to get you, predators are really out to get you, but sometimes they are just the opportunist, happy with what ever might swim in.
How often, in reality, do you confidently dive in for your own prey only to find, too late, that you have become the proverbial ‘sitting duck’? By all means, think like your predator to secure your risks, but it takes some environmental study and the turn of seasons to know who your predators are.