Carve out time to explore the future
Like the crew of the Andrea Gail, most competitors will try to ride the storm. They’ll make few adjustments and carry on as normal, comforted by the knowledge that what got them here has served them well in the past. They may never be seen again.
The enlightened leader, however, with an eye tuned for change, will strikeout to find new ground and create their future.
This handbook is a guide for all leaders looking for solutions in a world turned upside down. It is designed to encourage you to ask questions and offer up answers. It explores the next normal as the world adjusts to the storm and aftershocks of living with the novel coronavirus.
Carve out time using this handbook as a guide to think what the future might look like. Consider: How employees and customers will be changed, how you can satisfy new needs and what your company must do today to build a competitive advantage in tomorrow’s world as we adjust to living with the virus.
Think through how to navigate an upturned world
Moving from the new to the next normal:
The coronavirus crisis created the new normal – a world of physical distancing, self-isolation and working from home.
The new normal is now rapidly being replaced by the next normal — remerging to live with the virus and contending with seven other forces of disruptive change, which never went away.
The next normal is far more than a pandemic crisis; it’s also an imminent restructure of global social and economic order.
What we know about living with the virus
Four coronaviruses already circulate in human beings. They cause common cold symptoms and we don't have vaccines for any of them.
According to the World Health Organisation, the virus may never go away
Immunity to covid-19 may not last, with researchers at MIT saying people could catch coronaviruses twice in the same year.
We need to consider the impact of coronavirus returning every year like the common cold.
Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by mid-2021. This is about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged.
It is believed that 60-70% of people need to be immune to the virus in order to stop it spreading easily (known as herd immunity). However, that would be billions of people around the world, if the vaccine worked perfectly.
“What is unique is we have to go so fast and so huge,” says Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson. “When Ebola was a problem in Central Africa, with a few hundred thousand vaccines you could get it under control. Here you need billions of vaccines.”
A vaccine would need to reach all corners of the world in order to effectively tackle the virus. Distribution is going to be a huge challenge, particularly when it comes to the last mile.
The pandemic's economic impact will be stark. Half the world's workers, 1.9 billion people, may see their livelihoods destroyed.
It is clear, businesses need to develop strategies for the long term impact of coronavirus.
Coronavirus is the metaphorical hurricane in our perfect storm
As the virus collides with other disruptive forces, it will speed up and amplify the economic and social change organisations face in the 2020s. Think about AI and robotics. Already an emerging trend, this force is being sped up as companies explore ways to use automation and overcome constraints of humans having to social distance.
We can view this as a once in a lifetime crisis; or as a revolutionary period between two ages — A rare opportune moment in history where leaders who are tuned towards change seize opportunity to create the future. The choice is ours to make.
Individually, each force promises significant disruption. Impacting together, they will transform the world forcing companies to rethink how they operate in virtually every area from channel delivery, to pricing and procurement to supply chains, sales, marketing and cybersecurity.
Force one: Pandemics
A second spike is a large concern, although this time it is unlikely to result in large scale lockdown. There is also the threat of other novel viruses.
Coronavirus is the result of two mega trends:
Species destruction: It is believed the virus may have spread from pangolins to people. Pangolins are critically endangered, but illegal trafficking is widespread as there is a high demand for their scales which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Urban migration: It may have taken 10,000 years of civilisation, but by 2007, 50% of humanity or roughly 3 billion people had moved into cities. Amazingly, between 2007-2050 that figure will more than double again. By 2050, close to 70% or 6.5 billion people will live in cities. So, what took humanity 10,000 years, will be done again within 43 years.
This degree of migration on steroids combined with species destruction means that the probability of future pandemic disruption is extremely high. We need to be better prepared next time.
Coronavirus is the first shot across the bow; there will be others. Pandemics are predictable and can and will come from anywhere.
Businesses should work with government to develop better responses to future pandemic driven disruptions.
Reimagine how business should be in the next normal
Even before coronavirus, people could see that we are living in revolutionary times. Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Intelligent robots. Artificial Intelligence. Nano-technologies. Self-driving cars. Genetic editing. All these new developments offer evidence of transformative change happening at exponential speed.
The World Economic Forum calls this new revolution the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We think they could have been more creative in their naming of a new revolution, for this revolution will be a new Age of Exploration. Not since the Age of Discovery have so many new frontiers opened in the areas of science, health, education, engineering, communications, energy, finance and even space travel.
Don't comfort yourself with black swans
Business leaders shouldn't comfort themselves by thinking that coronavirus was a black swan — a black swan describes an unlikely event that has a major impact.
Rather, coronavirus was a visible but highly ignored black elephant — a black elephant is a large visible problem, yet no one wants to address it.
These forces are the black elephants in the room, which most leaders prefer not to address. A lesson we should learn from coronavirus is that disruption can and does come from anywhere at fast and overwhelming speeds.
The advantage of planning and preparing now is to be forearmed when your competitors are not.
Begin by reimagining how business should be in the next normal
Leading through the next normal
The coronavirus crisis created the new normal – a world of physical distancing, self-isolation and working from home. This normal is rapidly receding and being replaced by the next normal — remerging to live with the virus and contend with seven other forces of disruptive change. The next normal is far more than a pandemic crisis; it’s also an imminent restructure of global social and economic order.
What leaders need now is not a predefined strategy and roadmap, but rather the behaviours and mindsets that will help them stay watertight while looking ahead to explore these uncharted oceans.
Here’s how leaders can begin to navigate through the next normal.
Explore the new & capitalise on the old
As we exit lockdown, leaders need to accept that the old ways are gone. However, it is not yet clear what the next normal will be. We’re seeing that this ambiguity results in attempts to retrofit current business into the post-lockdown world. This is folly – what got you here will not get you there. Rather, the leaders are exploring the new ways while capitalising from the old.
Capitalising is the process of leveraging existing processes and focuses on the now. It is familiar; it’s what leaders are trained to do. Teams execute plans using entrenched processes. They’re led by detailed roadmaps with clear goals, supported by business cases, with clear projections about expected outcomes.
This is still relevant in the post-lockdown world, but leaders must recognise that they cannot lead exploration in the same way that they manage their current business.
Exploration is the process of discovery. It requires a different mindset and behavioural approach. Teams venturing into the unknown discover there are no roadmaps or clear steps to follow. They must be agile, resilient and adaptable to a changing, ambiguous environment. Thriving in the post lockdown world will require exploration and testing, as well as learning, unlearning and relearning. A spirit of adventure will build sustainable growth, and this is what sets apart explorer organisations from their peers.
The ability to operate simultaneously in the two worlds of explore and capitalise will be a true test of leadership in this new age.
Some leaders will set up their equivalent to X – Google’s Moonshot factory, dedicated to creating radical new solutions for some of the world’s hardest problems.
Most companies are not Google and will develop the explore capability in-house. This could be an advantage. Explorations benefit from being close to operations, shifting consumer needs, and quickly tuning to problems that need solving. That is, if a culture of exploration has been coded into the organisation’s DNA.
The danger of in-house exploration is that the existing business mindset may hinder initiatives in favour of retaining the old normal. During the transition from one normal to the next, the old way of doing things must run alongside the new. Over time, this method forges an optimum model.
The leaders ensure that explore and capitalise exist in an environment that embraces ambiguity and healthy conflict. They do this by coding the explorer gene into the organisation’s DNA, focusing across three elements: what they do; how they do it; and, what they are capable of achieving.
Becoming an explorer organisation is not something that needs to evolve slowly. We’ve helped organisations to genetically engineer and supercharge the explorer’s gene in their DNA. This is advantageous because the sooner you start exploring the opportunities of this new age, the quicker you will thrive in the post-lockdown world.
Build back better
The coronavirus has brought financial, economic, and human turmoil, and it has also highlighted the importance of resilience amid uncertainty.
The UN Global Compact developed “build back better” as a disaster-recovery programme that gained currency in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The idea: when disruption strikes, use the opportunity to create a safer, better everything.
The notion of using disruption to build back better predates 2004. An iconic example is William Beveridge’s plan for a National Health Service, made during World War Two. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal is another excellent example of where building back better out of crisis has resulted in sustainable growth and societal benefits.
As we leave lockdown, we have an opportunity to use the pandemic to build a more equitable and fair society for everyone. But it’s not only for social reasons.
Build back better is also gaining remarkable results in business.
At the end of last year, CEOs from 181 mega-corporations, employing 15 million people, and more than $7 trillion in revenue – including the likes of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, and Virginia Rometty, the chairperson of IBM – aligned their commitment to the Business Roundtable’s revised statement of purpose: to promote ‘an economy that serves all stakeholders’.
In 2018 Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, publicly declared their strategy to be among the “first of the true 21st-century companies, one that benefits all stakeholders.” The true test to this commitment has come quickly. As Covid-19 cratered its revenues, Mr Chesky has been forced to let go of 1,900 jobs. His dilemma was how to remain true to stakeholder-driven values and save the business. He chose a compassionate and responsible response. Airbnb gave those laid off 14 weeks of pay, an Airbnb laptop, equity stakes, job advice and healthcare insurance for a year. “It was important that we had a clear set of principles, guided by our core values, for how we would approach reductions in our workforce,” Chesky explained in a letter to staff.
There is also growing investor support. According to BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, with $7.4 trillion in assets under management, “we are seeing that regardless of industry, strong sustainability characteristics have been essential to helping companies weather crisis.”
According to Just Capital, the companies that prioritised social issues during the coronavirus crisis have significantly outperformed their peers.
Building back better is good for business too
Opportunities abound for businesses to join the movement and build back better. Peter Drucker said, “the biggest problems in the world are also the biggest business opportunities.” Why wouldn’t you focus on them?
Building back better in the post-lockdown world will not be easy. However, with empathy, caring and good judgement, business leaders can find a better way forward.
How can TTC help?
Businesses around the world have rapidly responded and adapted to coronavirus. The journey has only just begun. The 2020's will be decade of disruption but with the right mindset it can be turned into a decade of action.
Leaders who are hoping and waiting for things to go back to normal, are in for a big shock. We are living in a period between two ages. The Ancient Greeks called these periods kairos. During kairos it is the leaders who are tuned to change that seize opportunity to shape and create the future. .
The enlightened leaders will accept that the future isn’t what it used to be and that what got them here, will not get them there.
Confidence has taken a hammering, but people and business are showing themselves to be resilient. The organisations that put their people first; embark on bold meaningful quests exploring the new world will deftly deal with disruption and build back better.
We can help you:
Develop scenarios and identify trends impacting your business
Bring your purpose and strategy to life
Build exploration and innovation into your organisational culture
Build high-performance teams
Develop that strategies to be a force for good