This is weird. Disruptive, challenging, productive. What is termed a wicked problem – a mystery to be understood not a puzzle to be solved.
The thing I believe is this. We are dealing with two challenges.
The first is about getting by for the next three months. Not elegant, not trainable, not consultable. The time period is too short, the situation too mobile and unpredictable. It’s hands on, leadership heavy, coping.
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
The second is to work out what to do as we pass the peak of this, because it won’t be the same as the situation we’ve left. We have around three to four months to peak Covid-19, and are facing it remaining in circulation through next winter, and most likely before a vaccine is ready and distributable. There is a reasonable chance of a repeat performance.
Schumpeter’s Birthday Party
During this time, the infrastructure will change. Weak businesses will fail, alongside some good ones. Some good employees will be displaced or lost to better financed competition. Other good people will discover that they like working from home, want to stay doing it, and will have options with other employers. The government will try hard and work hard, but won’t keep pace with rapidly morphing business needs.
It’s like Schumpeter’s birthday (actually, that was Feb 8th, so its a bit of a late party). The economist who gave us creative destruction. For the next period – maybe two years, who knows? His model rules right now.
Lifting the weight
That doesn’t leave us helpless, anything but, although there will be no cavalry riding over the hill. The qualities we need – resilience, agility, imagination, creativity – we mostly already have, but are often not using.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he of “Black Swans”, and the idea of “antifragile” – the art of using the energy of shock events to grow, not just recover – highlights that is times like these we need “barbel” strategies. Harness both ends of the spectrum, avoid the procrastinating middle, where people wait for things to return to normal.
Here are the ends of the barbel, in my view:
- End 1 – the “right now” end. The next three to six months. Leadership, Improvisation, Inclusion. Work with the people you have. Challenge all the assumptions you are making. Harness ideas, experiment, keep moving. Learn.
- End 2 – the “new world” end. Get your top team round you, and others who will support you. Explore possibilities. Create scenarios. Identify the early “signposts” that will indicate which scenarios are emerging. Entertain radical alternatives. Get ready.
This is no time for caution. Coming out of the other end of this to discover the world you left is not returning is no time to start thinking.
If you want an alternative perspective of where you stand, and your options, call me. I’m happy to talk over Zoom with you for a while, without charge.
You could help me and my colleagues by completing a short survey put together by the EGA which is considering ways of using peer group power to peer through the murk at what is emerging. They will circulate findings to you.
All best to all as we work through this.