The “six degrees” concept is that you can reach any person in the world using a maximum of six personal relationships in a chain stretching from you to the person you want to reach.
There has been a fair amount of cyber hype over the last 20 years or so, although the idea dates back to 1929.
A Hungarian named Frigyes Karinthy was fascinated by the idea of the world shrinking as connectivity grew and was the first to postulate the theory.
In business continuity, however, the number of degrees has been rising as offshoring and multi-company supply chains have increased.
So, how many degrees or links back must you check for possible business continuity impact on your business from the failure of another enterprise elsewhere?
In some instances, the chains are short and obvious. A tsunami stopping production in Japanese semiconductor companies played havoc with major American high-tech vendors a few years ago.
PC vendors were similarly affected when hard drive supplies were curtailed by flooding of factories in Thailand.
Other chains are longer and less obvious, such as suppliers relying on subcontractors, who may in turn use sub-subcontractors, and so on.
A business continuity impact at the end of a longer chain could ripple back to the beginning, like the idea in chaos theory of a butterfly in the Pacific triggering a hurricane on the other side of the world.
Theoretically, there may be no limit to the number of degrees of business continuity that should be verified.
At an interpersonal level, increasing connectivity has already reduced the six degrees posited for reaching anybody else in the world. Measurements on Facebook in 2011 showed that between 4 and 5 (4.74 was the statistic quoted) degrees were now enough.
In supply chains, shorter chains offer more visibility and therefore more chance to protect business continuity. Multiplying suppliers also helps limit exposure to chains along which business continuity impact can travel.
At least that should reduce your risk of being affected by another company halfway across the world, which you never heard of before its business continuity failure rippled back to affect you.