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Friday, September 24, 2021



The truth is that every crisis, while deeply unsettling, also contains the seeds of opportunity. While pondering over the collective, unprecedented impact of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, make no mistake. The fact that this is a new reality does not mean we should surrender to it. We can transform the crisis into opportunities if we think about the following guidelines and apply them to our own situations.

Change your mental model. 

Instead of viewing the present situation as a short-term necessary evil that we should try to leave behind as soon as possible and return to a comfortable pre-crisis past, we should ask how to use the current situation to speed up long overdue changes. Consider the universities, for example. Many schools have been tinkering around the edges with online learning for several years.  Educators knew that traditional teaching methods were ineffective, but it was almost impossible to get them to change before this crisis came along. Now universities have closed their campuses, students have been sent home, and faculty are being asked to conduct most classes online. Hopefully these changes will continue after the crisis has passed and lead to long-term change. 

Step up your digital transformation and invest in infrastructure.

The shutting down of the physical world and the shift to the digital world is transforming not just the universities but also many other organizations. Think about what is happening at retail stores, museums, orchestras and theatres. All these require a strong digital infrastructure. The fact that brick-and-mortar channels are closed compels organizations to speed up their digital transformation. For example, the National Theatre in London, unable to perform plays in an auditorium during the lockdown, has announced that it will stream its performances for free on YouTube. The extension of its digital capabilities – along with the goodwill generated among a global rather than local audience – should continue to serve it well long after the crisis has passed. Organizations that use the shutdown to enhance their digital capabilities and capitalize on existing trends will be able to get closer to offering real-time experiences.

Identify new business opportunities generated by the crisis.

One way to spot new opportunities is to creatively address people’s fears, uncertainties and lack of trust. For example, as demand has overwhelmed supply, enormous shortages of hospital beds, especially in intensive care units for Covid-19 treatment have emerged worldwide. In response, Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota have designed an intensive care pod within a shipping container for hospitals. Named CURA, which stands for Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments, these pods are meant to help hospitals add to their ICU capacity. Another example of a company seeing an opportunity even as it deals with the crisis is Zoom, the conferencing platform, which allows users to add a “virtual background” while they work at home.

Reexamine your talent strategy. 

Many companies have on their staff non-productive employees who do not have the competencies needed to succeed in the 21st century. It is possible to build a new talent strategy around a small core of full time-employees and augment it with the talent of open innovation. Such a fluid organizational structure, which combines the talent, capabilities and agility of employees with networks of independent contractors, can help spur open innovation. 

Identify areas of opportunity through an idealized design process. 

Crises often offer opportunities at very reduced prices to acquire companies that may be in trouble or talent that has been laid off. While such opportunities are often tempting, it is smart to be selective and have a grand vision and master strategy that guides these acquisitions. 

Switch from a shareholder-focused organization to a stakeholder-focused one. 

Companies have been speaking for a long time about the importance of focusing on their customers. While this trend has been visible long before the coronavirus crisis arrived, it will intensify and become a necessity as a result of the crisis. Companies are becoming proactive about communicating with their customers, but they must do this in a sensitive fashion. As companies slim down and shed staff, paradoxically they will have to become even more highly focused on the employees that remain. Firms will need to deal with their employees as people, and not only in their narrow role as employees but as human beings.  

Speed up the switch to a network orchestrator model.

Companies have been talking for a long time about shifting towards a network orchestrator model. It is obvious in today’s environment - and this was true before the crisis - that you cannot succeed by competing company-against-company. You must focus on network-against-network competition and leverage your networks. Companies that leveraged their networks had a market value that was eight times their revenues. These data are probably obsolete because of the crisis, but the reality is that the benefit of networks will be even more important now. We must speed up the shift towards network orientation and orchestration. Managing network communications in a thoughtful, respectful manner requires a different kind of leadership model. 

Assure your organization’s agility, adaptability and resilience by enhancing its culture and reinventing its architecture. 

Assuring that the organization is agile, adaptable and resilient means we must re-examine the organizational architecture. This includes organizational culture as well as competencies, performance measures, incentives and reward systems as well as infrastructure, processes, technology and facilities. All these must be re-examined to ensure that the organization is agile and adaptable. Only these organizations will be able to survive after the crisis. It is equally important to find creative and effective ways to bridge or eliminate organizational processes. The reason is that consumers increasingly judge organizations based on their own customer experience - and this often requires seamless and consistent delivery of products and services. 

Re-examine your business model and operations. Challenge your revenue model to identify opportunities for increased efficiency and profitable growth.

Companies will have to re-examine their business models as well as revenue models. In times of crisis, cash is always king. The question is, how can you generate cash? Traditionally, companies have tried to save on costs by firing or laying off people. Very often, if you look across departments and business units, there is duplication of effort. There is a huge opportunity for cost savings by re-examining, and if needed reinventing, all aspects of operations, business models and revenue models. There may be new opportunities to start thinking about revenue sharing or equity participation in other companies. A crisis represents a huge opportunity to rethink everything we do.

Innovate and adopt an adaptive experimentation approach. 

Experimentation and innovation are a must in today’s environment. We must innovate in everything we do, not only in our products but also with respect to areas such as organizational architecture. You cannot do everything at once. Given the uncertainties during a crisis, the only way you can learn is to continuously improve what you are doing. This can only be achieved through continuous experimentation. Speed up the innovation process, and make sure that innovation is done by everyone and not just by a separate unit. Everyone should be thinking about how things can be done differently and better. Experiments should be designed to deal with short-term challenges as well as longer-term issues. Also think about where the next crisis could come from, and what you can do to prevent it from happening or to protect yourself if it occurs.

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