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Crises, and the tools to face them

An HBR book collects 20 essays that are a must-read to better understand how to act in times as difficult as these

Times of crisis, times of opportunity for those who can seize the chances that arise in periods when great changes hold sway. Still, difficult periods must be faced with a suitable store of knowledge, that’s for sure. Knowledge which must be acquired. It would be apt, then, to read Affrontare e vincere le crisi. Della pandemia e di altre catastrofi: lezioni da apprendere per contenere i danni e ripartire alla grande (Facing and overcoming crises: on pandemics and other catastrophes – lessons on how to minimise damage and restart with a bang), edited by Enrico Sassoon (editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review Italy), an expert, above all, in current business trends.

The book’s aim is made explicit from the first pages: to provide readers with a collection of contributions (20 essays) by high-brow figures – from the worlds of economy, high politics, finance, and international relations – reflecting on the situation and on the developments of the Covid-19 pandemic. A true “toolkit” for those who wish to acquire the right instruments to better understand what is happening.

The editor writes, in the first lines: “A pandemic crisis, notwithstanding its violence and length, does not constitute a normal period in the unfolding of history and time. Its global reach and the paralysis it imposes on the whole world make this crisis different, a real and unexpected discontinuity, the extent of which we are still struggling to understand. The cost is and will be very high in terms of human lives, but its impact will also have to be measured in psychological, economic, political and social terms (individual and collective). We are witnessing the rupture of an epoch.” He continues: “Covid-19 represents a further exacerbation of global crises, not only because it highlights the enormous difficulty in managing a crisis of this nature, but also because it suddenly reveals a truth that we would rather not have learned: the great historical catastrophes which we have seen in the past and that we imagined would come in the future can happen now.”

What’s extraordinary, then, is the guiding principle of what is happening, and the book attempts to interpret it with 20 essays divided into five sections that touch on all the main areas hit by the pandemic.

The first section is an in-depth investigation of the pandemic itself, an exceptional event that is causing, and will have not only a heavy economic impact but also deep implications for management styles, new working methods such as smart working, and different relationships within organisations. The second section looks more broadly at crises, whether in relation to health, economic or other emergencies. The third section concerns new approaches to risk management and the new organisational and leadership models required to comply with them. The fourth section invites us to look to the future with professionalism and awareness, in order to be ready to manage any unexpected event. Lastly, the final section touches on communication issues in times of crisis.

Authors include: Nitin Nohria, Condoleezza Rice, Yuval Noah Harari, Martin Reeves, Robert Kaplan, Heidi Gardner, Andrea Granelli, Emilio Rossi, Luigi Consiglio and many others.

Sassoon edited a book that, though not always easy, should certainly be read, and perhaps reread a bit later.

Affrontare e vincere le crisi. Della pandemia e di altre catastrofi: lezioni da apprendere per contenere i danni e ripartire alla grande (“Facing and overcoming crises: on pandemics and other catastrophes – lessons on how to minimise damage and restart with a bang”)

Enrico Sassoon (edited by)

Mind Edizioni, 2020