It’s just day 3 into South Africa’s new coronavirus State-of-Disaster reality, but already businesses are thinking differently – they have to.
Companies, previously opposed to remote working, are now forced to adapt, while workers themselves are adapting to working from home: especially the working parents who now have to juggle looking after their children, as well as their work commitments, as schools also go into lock down.
However, despite the steep learning curve, there is already a sense that “we can do this” – unless of course you are in the service industry, or a gig worker in the service industry. I don’t know how this sector, or small businesses, are going to survive this. The devastating impact is already being felt, and it’s only just begun.
Already, there are calls for more empathy in business. Loan forbearance is being talked about in big business, but equally on the ground there is talk of leniency to tenants in the retail sector to accommodate supply chain disruptions, a moratorium on evictions for late rent payments, bank fees and penalties being waived (the travel industry was first to respond to change penalties), and since universities are also closing, the question of leniency on student loan repayments is also being considered. The new Davos Manifesto promising “a better kind of capitalism” might actually become a reality, and not just an empty promise.
As we crossed over into 2020 – a year always earmarked as a watershed year – there was a sense that the winds of change, which have been brewing for a while now, would clear the path for new ways of doing things. COVID-19 will fast track that change process. Just as a global event like 9/11 changed the world, so too will this novel coronavirus.
Whenever I consult with excos or senior leadership on implementing innovation, I always use the analogy of how high performance athletes operate (as advocated by Eduardo Briceno – CEO of Mindset Works). They spend 99% of their time in a learning zone (their training) and then 1% in the performance zone, where they do remarkable things.
In business we all do the opposite: spend 99% in the performance zone (usually head buried in operational issues), and then 1% in a learning zone (usually the annual conference or training session) and then wonder why we can’t achieve remarkable things.
So while you are now adapting to remote working, and enjoying the reduced distractions (yes, all those laborious meetings could have been emails), now is the time to nudge yourselves more into the learning zone.
As Rahm Emanuel (former White House Chief of Staff) said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
The coronavirus crisis is disrupting everything, and when that dust settles the world will be a very different place, with new innovations implemented, new supply chains and hopefully real purpose and empathy in business. Take this opportunity to review, restructure and reimagine your business model, or operating system. Ask yourself how your business will fit into this new world order, and then prepare yourself to move back into the performance zone.