Many people are experiencing their own version of this crisis. Whether on the front line of healthcare, suddenly out of work, or striving valiantly to keep a business (and those that depend upon it) afloat, there is that heightened anxiety shared, but driven by different factors. Churchill was no stranger to a crisis and like many, he realised that a crisis also afforded an opportunity.
Business As Unusual
Our daily lives have changed more than ever over the last few weeks as we have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, staying at home and implementing social distancing policies. We are doing the same things, but in different ways – almost everything takes place in our homes now and life and business goes on through our laptops, tablets and phones.
When this phase passes, some things will quickly go back to how they were before – children will go to school, people will go to work, restaurants and shops again, and meet up with friends. But, the world will be different on the other side of this, as some things cannot be unexperienced. Some of these new ways of doing things might end up being preferable to the old ways, particularly from a business perspective.
Some countries have seen a 25% reduction in carbon emissions and many organisations have benefited from greater efficiencies, as no time is lost commuting or traveling. Individuals are enjoying more time with their families (sometimes, at least) and have a renewed appreciation of nature and wildlife and respect for the immense power of nature. While we might now miss the daily commute (that we have complained about so often in the past) as a useful transition time, we will have found new ways to do this more dynamically. We will have to as many of us will encounter this several times a day as we try to participate in meetings, while supervising children on Google Classroom.
This is a unique time to rethink how we live our lives and how businesses operate, and significant opportunity exists for those companies that can be nimble and adapt to our changing world. In my view, there will be at least three things that will change in the new world driven by COVID-19, all of which are long overdue:
1) Renewed respect and consideration for those supporting us at this time – healthcare workers, supermarket and food shop workers, delivery drivers, postmen and women and carers
2) Raised awareness of nature and the power of mother earth
3) A recognition that so many things can be done virtually – this may finally push through the digital transformation that so many companies and industries have been struggling with
So, what will change? Well, necessity is the mother of invention, so let’s start there. Healthcare systems will continue to be overburdened for long after the lockdown ends. Flattening the curve means that COVID-19 patients will continue to get sick over a longer period. There will continue to be a need to relieve pressure off healthcare systems by taking activities off the plates of health care providers (HCPs). Perhaps some of the activities that have traditionally been done in person by nurses, or other HCPs, could be done by patients themselves, or by their carer with remote support.
Let’s take the example of wound care. Up until now, wound care products are sold to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, and nurses carry out dressing changes in the hospitals and clinics, or a district nurse may visit the patient’s home to do this. In our new world, is it possible that patients or their carers can change dressings themselves? Companies that sell the dressings could provide online training videos and send packages of the materials required directly to patient / carer.
With the advances in technology and growing use of “wearables”, there may be several other procedures and interactions that have typically been face to face with an HCP, that could now be done remotely. Digital Catapult, the UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation centre, is already evaluating this idea of developing VR solutions to allow HCPs to train on tasks, like specialist equipment operations, before the kit is even available to them.
Move from necessity to preference, and you open up a world of possibility. In a short space of time we have seen a wide range of activities transform to being accessed remotely, from exercise classes and dance lessons, to cooking classes, virtual conferences and streamed live music performances. We will grow to appreciate these options and may want to continue these after lockdown. In addition, the warnings of climate change activists may now be listened to more vigilantly, as we have seen what havoc the mighty forces of nature can wreak, and the positive impact of the lockdown on pollution and carbon emissions.
Adapt Or Die
Now is the time for companies to explore reshaping their offering to fit into the new world that we are emerging into. We at Skarbek have a lot of experience partnering with companies to map out future scenarios and unlock ideas to carve a new way forward. We have developed and deployed successful virtual workshops that are highly productive in a remote work setting. Competitive advantage does not arise from static business models and fixed routine ways of working. Companies have an opportunity now to use this new level of uncertainty to their advantage and learn to adapt accordingly, not only with products and services, but also strategies and processes. Through fostering these functions effectively and assessing risks appropriately, businesses can not only survive; but thrive. As Churchill reminds us; don’t let a crisis go to waste.