Park the panic and reimagine the future
by Lisa Steingold. We are understandably in crisis. Just a week or two ago, things were seemingly business as usual. Days down the line and the majority of corporate work has switched to remote working; and most of us are in shock at the sudden and dramatic impact of this Black Swan event that is COVID-19.Monday, 23 Mar 2020
by Lisa Steingold. We are understandably in crisis. Just a week or two ago, things were seemingly business as usual. Days down the line and the majority of corporate work has switched to remote working; businesses have temporarily closed; and most of us are in shock at the sudden and dramatic impact of this Black Swan event that is COVID-19.
In an already declining economy, and one where load shedding and recession already weigh heavily on the nation, how do we adapt to the prolific impact of this coronavirus? Tourism and events account for over 3% of GDP and these industries, including others have been halted in their tracks overnight. The global predictions are no better. Globally the forecast is that most airlines will not be operating come May.
Neil Harbinson, chairman of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation told Simple Flying: “What I’m hearing is that the best-positioned airline in Asia has 30 days of cash left. You can’t emasculate a business by 70 or 80% for a period of weeks, in a cashflow business, and expect them to stay solvent. It’s as simple as that.”
It’s easy to see why markets are crashing and doom and gloom prevail. The added challenge of COVID-19 is not only that it is impacting people and counties economically and health-wise, but it is also impacting people socially in a triple whammy effect.
The tragic irony is that Bill Gates, Clem Sunter, Graham Codrington and other futurists predicted a pandemic years ago and both governments and industry alike never gave it a second thought. The question is why, and can we ask different questions now in order to propel us into a new future?
As humans we tend to think linearly. We predict future success or scenarios based on past events, yet more and more the past has no correlation to the future. The question most likely on many people’s minds is how do I get through this? How long will this last? Instead, our focus should turn to the future and how we take the lessons of the current and translate them into opportunities. This is no airy fairy practice – the likes of Apple and AirBnb, amongst numerous others, live this approach as their modus operandi.
As is our practice with leadership teams and organisations, we suggest taking a systemic approach and adopting three practices to help organisations adapt to the current challenges.
1. Future-back thinking
Imagine having moved through these challenging times and having come out the other side? What does the world look like? What could the world look like? Who are our stakeholders, and what do they require from us?
It’s easy to get trapped in the panic of today but what if you could park the panic for an hour or two and imagine the future? What if there is an opportunity within the disease outbreak? What if another virus broke out? What if your organisation could contribute?
There’s a great introduction to the Future Organisation in Forbes and although it was written in 2015, it’s highly relevant. COVID-19 will pass and we have an opportunity to create the future; one that is meaningful to us and all stakeholders. Let’s begin.
2. Leverage a network of teams
To promote rapid problem solving and execution under high-stress, chaotic conditions, leverage a network of teams. This can be done as leadership or as entrepreneurs to leverage a network of teams to capitalise on strengths; brand together to offer a range of services; or subcontract key skills. Utilise the power of the collective too in your personal capacity for advice, insight and learning.
How, one might ask given social distancing? Leverage technology. We all have access to a wide range of learning and communication tools at our fingertips which are often free or available at a small cost.
3. Human first, technology enabled
Many of us have long been fearful of the ‘machines’ ready to take over our jobs. The truth is humans are needed and if there’s one thing Coronavirus has shown us its just how interconnected we are and how integral we are to each other. A human-first, technology enabled practice could just be the answer we have been seeking. Is there the potential that any of your current offerings could leverage technology to deliver in order to contribute value and yet still adhere to social distancing?
We cannot underplay the impact that Coronavirus will play on our lives, our organisations and our people, but it could be the shift that results in a different future.
Lisa Steingold is an author and head of marketing for Metaco, a globally connected consultancy and recognised leader in Systemic Leadership Team solutions in Africa. She has a passion for tech, disruptive thinking and behaviour change. For more questions and insights, feel free to download Metaco’s State of Leadership Report 2020 on www.metaco.co.za.
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