I do not think anyone disagrees that the global storm that is COVID-19 will change the world. The question is how and what the world will look like after the storm has passed.
There are many perspectives already being put forward. Mostly these are high level, cerebral perspectives designed to create a degree of fear.
For instance, will we all be under totalitarianism surveillance by the state, monitoring our temperature, where we are, who we interact with. Or perhaps the fact that Governments will not cease emergency powers or decrees immediately, and use these to dictate their political agendas onto the populace. Or, of course, my favorite: the demise of capitalism and democracy and the rise of socialism and or nationalism.
However, as a business owner and captain of my ship I tend to focus on how the world may shape my business, what that landscape may look like, how I keep my staff engaged, healthy, and employed, and most importantly, how we add value to our customers, new and existing, in this new world.
What we can anticipate whilst in the eye of the storm is how both our business and, of course, our customers’ businesses, may endure or survive this event.
We as leaders either adapt or die.
Some will perish. This is the reality of a storm of this magnitude. It is unfortunate, but we must be realistic. This storm is a “disruptive event” which will fundamentality change our lives. It is possible the world may go back to the way it was, but we, as leaders, have to plan for what may lie ahead if it does not.
My thoughts now turn to other disruptive events – what we learned from these, and how the world changed. For instance, both World War I and World War II ushered in and then progressed the rise of women in the workforce with ongoing positive impact. However, it did take time for the full impact to be felt and its ongoing benefits are still evolving.
More recent examples are Apple replaced physical record stores with iTunes, or Netflix displacing video stores by first providing DVD subscriptions by mail, and later video streaming online. These events fundamentally changed how we digest content and listen to music, starting whole new industries.
The next thing to consider is what the business landscape may look like in 5 to 10 years; which industries will change, and how technology will enable this change – hopefully for good.
Already we are seeing established companies like Airbus, Dyson, Louis Vuitton “pivot” towards diverting manufacturing capabilities to support medical needs. They are adapting to new market opportunities. I expect this nimble approach to become the norm for those who wish to survive.
One of the areas that I foresee being forever changed is how we work, and potentially how we learn. Recent events have forced all industries, businesses, and educational institutions to find new ways to work and teach productively outside of the standard 9 to 5 model of the past, and from a vast range of different domestic locations.
It is true that this has been changing slowly, but we are now in a truly different world than we were two months ago. For instance, will working from home allow staff to be not only productive, but allow for a greater work-life balance we hear so much about?
Will teaching students permanently evolve beyond a static classroom? This would provide the availability to bring knowledge to a global classroom rather than a physical, geographically constrained one.
Will these recent shifts have an impact on commercial office spaces, as businesses realize that they can function and be productive without the expense of office blocks, or perhaps with a fraction of what they used prior?
Will we see wholesale movement into the WeWork model of leasing space – as and when needed – to have weekly meetings? Or will these meetings be held only virtually, via video channels?
What about the impact on flying? For the past decade, we have mostly used video to connect with clients. Other CEOs I have talked to are amazed that we can sell complex software solutions without actually physically meeting our potential customers.
I believe this will now expand to be the norm.
If correct, then the impact on the planet and company’s balance sheets will be positive; the old makes way for the new.
Almost all the technology required to undertake this exists today. Most of us have used it occasionally; this event means we have to use it. There is no other way to maintain the cohesion of our businesses. Excitingly, we are already seeing fast-paced enhancements to some of these technologies further improving user experiences, and driven by this rapidly evolving global event.
Some will view these changes and what comes after with dread; I view them with anticipation. This will pass. What comes after offers exciting promise and benefits for those with vision and determination. There will be opportunity that comes from chaos.
There will be change. Embrace it, profit from it, and most of all, do not fear it.
The storm will pass and clear skies are coming. We must all endure the disruption to our lives in the meantime. After all, we don’t have any choice.
Glenn has over 40 years of experience in the IT sector, and has been with ActiveDocs for 15 years. He has a strong international sales, marketing, and management background.