berlaymont-fireThis week, on Monday, a fire broke out in the Berlaymont building, the European Commission’s headquarters, and managed to spread through a service shaft to the roof. Thankfully, the fire was brought under control (though this took four hours) and all of the staff evacuated safely. President Barroso was himself evacuated down an emergency staircase. The fire was a quintessential black swan – perhaps all the more surprising for the fact that it occurred in a state-of-the-art building that had only just been refurbished. The Commission’s business continuity plan then kicked into action, so that urgent or essential tasks continued to be carried out. The EESC is currently enhancing its own business continuity plan. Like Taleb himself, the lesson I glean from The Black Swan is not fatalistic. Just because you cannot know doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare. Indeed, an important part of a good business continuity plan is imagining black swans and then thinking through how you would deal with their consequences. Taleb goes further. Black swans, he argues, can lead to great opportunities, and you have to be ready to sieze them when they occur.