Presently, the world is collectively fighting an enemy that is omnipresent; invisible, fast-moving, and indiscriminate. In man’s search for peace and progress we have spent decades removing barriers and connecting up in trading knowledge and goods, bringing all races into an ever-more tightening circle, and in the process creating the perfect environment for a foe like COVID-19 to take full advantage of. The speed with which it has spanned the globe has shocked societies and markets into almost complete paralysis. The rapid and dynamic nature of the situation presents our leaders with the difficult decision, which need to be assessed and changed even by the hour. The world will never be the same again, and for most of us, we can’t really think beyond the present… and survival, but as the Persian proverb says ‘this too shall pass’.
Or will it?
Whatever the answer, we can only start to assume what the future might look like by endeavoring to understand the past, and how the present circumstances will impact our habits and behaviors as a species. This virus has suddenly burst the bubble of unsustainable trading which had been created and funded by the printing of money since the last Global Financial Crisis in 2008-2009. The total world debt is about $130 Trillion greater today than it was in GFC1, and a painful correction has been predicted since 2017. So even if this virus is contained and conquered within the year (and that will be a medical triumph) the financial markets and the global economy face an altogether more daunting road to recovery. Right now, success is to survive the present scenario.
THE ONGOING SCENARIO
Leaders in society and in business will need to consider the post-covid-19 landscape to understand how this crisis will have altered the psyche and behaviors of the population, and consequently what we need to address in the structure of our societies, and in support of one another. Every organization had to embrace a mobile way of working. Having arrived home and got set up, we have all had to get used to the tech that enables us to work anywhere, anytime. It has advanced IT and technology to the forefront. Having migrated from our offices, business leaders are now raising questions about the expensive workplaces, which now stand locked and silent. As humans we need social contact to grow, learn, stay engaged and stay well, and although technology assists us in periods of enforced isolation there is a growing urge to be with others for the stimulus that only person-to-person interaction provides. While the scenario above is feasible it does not address one of the key components of a successful and enduring company – identity and belonging. And in the context of business, this means that there will always be a requirement for a physical presence.
With the competitive landscape of many industries altered by business collapse we could see an early fight for the best brains; to give the fastest moving organizations the advantage on innovation. The knowledge economy will migrate to cyberspace with no need for office space, and organizations’ hiring requirements will shift:
• Older users will be less able to adapt to the virtual era will find themselves diminishing.
• Extrovert personalities who are strong at interpersonal and speaking skills could be passed over in favor of introverts who can put their thinking and argument more concise in the written word (the preferred communication mode of the dispersed economy).
CONCLUSION (LOOKING FORWARD)
We will see the end of this episode and life will never return to a pre-2020 mode. There are some significant mountains to climb yet. It is difficult to draw any conclusions yet, but if we look to the recent past we saw some remarkable organizations emerge from the 2008-2009 global collapse. Ford turned profits where many in the motor industry became history, Groupon was founded and soared, Netflix took off like a rocket, and Amazon went from strength to strength. So, there is hope – as Winston Churchill once said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
We don’t know the length of this crisis, or the global impact and the consequences but what we do know is, once you have survived ‘survival mode’, turn your attention to the future. If you recognize the challenges, you will be better equipped to harness the opportunities and make a meaningful contribution within your circles of influence.