The WHO declared COVID 19 a global pandemic on March 11th 2020. Western governments and societies were not prepared for the impact it would have and yet the effects are only beginning to be felt. After we weather the health crisis, we shall have to deal with the economic crisis and all other areas that have been directly or indirectly affected by the COVID 19 crisis: the ecological, social and democratic consequences.
No part of society will be spared from the effects of this crisis, whether directly or indirectly all will be affected including businesses. As schools open and life starts to regain its rhythm this September, efforts will be deployed to relaunch the economy by reviewing strategies taking into account the effects of COVID 19 and possible future crises and taking of adaptive measures.
At Impact Valley, we ask ourselves what are the key competencies needed to weather the current crisis and emerge stronger and more resilient.
The concepts of adaptation and agility are of greater importance today than they have ever been. Our world continues to evolve and it is plagued by uncertainties and constant change (VUCA). This rings true today. If we took a few minutes to listen to what planet earth is saying, we would hear the increasing uncertainties that the future holds:
Economic uncertainties: at the beginning of April, the IMF announced that a Post-COVID economic crisis is expected to be of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression. In the Brussels region alone, it is estimated that the number of job seekers will increase by over 10,000 while job offers will considerably reduce. Thanks to continuing government support, enterprises can survive the crisis but this will be put to test from September 30th when financial support will no longer be provided. The future of our economy is uncertain. The foundations we have always relied on have been shaken. What will come of globalization? Have the existing supply chains been undermined or are they still responsible and viable options?
Ecological Uncertainties: The future of COVID-19 or future pandemics is unknown. Whether there will be a second confinement period or not will have a cross-cutting effect on all decisions made now and in the future. Even though Earth Overshoot Day this year fell on 22nd August, which is later than last year’s 29th July, we cannot ignore the strain on earth’s limited resources. The human crisis we are currently facing is to a large extent anthropogenic. Humanity’s impact on planet earth cannot be denied.
Social Uncertainties: As evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, the status quo is no longer tenable. Never before have we witnessed as many feminist, ecological, anti-racism or LGBTQIA+ movements around Europe as we currently are. Laws across the board are evolving to reflect the call by social movements to render our societies more just and egalitarian.
We must acquaint ourselves with and seek to understand the world we live in to predict change: legislative, cultural and economic change. We are witnessing a paradigm shift.
Being agile calls for anticipating what is to come and knowing how to quickly adapt. Agility involves continually seeking the delicate balance between the active dimension (demonstrating one’s capacity to put ideas into action), the reactive dimension (seeking available opportunities as a result of ongoing change) and the proactive dimension (value creation).
Agility requires a business to be cognizant of the current state of affairs by listening, understanding and consequently acting to ensure its sustainability.
The human being is the ultimate value creator in today’s relational society. Therefore, the human is the central figure in all measures taken to pull our society out of the crisis and to keep enterprises afloat.
This involves displaying empathy by putting oneself in the shoes of the employee, client or any other stakeholder in the (value creation) ecosystem. This is the first step in any well-executed design thinking project i.e. understanding the needs of a person, their role, the challenges they face and their expectations. By so doing, one successfully puts himself in their shoes and comes up with a viable and desirable solution.
Allow us to share what we believe are the most important steps to take to be more empathetic and to be a better listener:
Consider that it is a stressful situation: The COVID 19 crisis has caused a lot of stress across the board. A study carried out by the Human Adaptation Institute sought to evaluate the human capacity to adapt in times of a crisis. The study indicated a steep decline in physio-psychological effort in 20% of respondents and a moderate decline in 50 % of the respondents.
Adapt for Justice: Societal imbalances between those that continued to go to work during the COVID crisis and those who worked from home have been noted. Attention should be paid to the longterm consequences of the imbalances.
Improve your Communication: Let us not forget the communication crisis that resulted. According to the study by the Human Adaptation Institute, social media and mainstream media are the main contributors to the communication crisis that was experienced. Clear communication and efficient decision making are primordial for the well-being of all parties.
The burnout rate was already alarmingly high before the COVID crisis struck. An important role of a manager is to ensure work-life balance among his/her colleagues but the current working conditions have made this balance harder to achieve.
Synergies between actors is essential to resolve the pressing challenges of this era. Acting in silos will bear no fruit, a single actor cannot arrive at global solutions or ease our uncertainties. As highlighted by Mariana Mazzucato in “The Entrepreneurial State,” even GAFAM, the digital giants, enjoyed support, especially legal and financial support, as they revolutionized our world and shared their innovation.
During the crisis, numerous collective initiatives were born most notably hackathons. Various Hack Crisis hackathons were held in several countries and these created platforms for cooperation and collaboration. Our Hackcovid hackathon showed us that we could have global reach if necessary, why should this not be capitalized on? Why shouldn’t we see this through?
At a time when it was thought that social distancing would drive us insane, we were able to maintain social ties, workplace relations and keep innovating thanks to collective intelligence. Each of us contributed to upholding its principles including those who participated in charity organizations, helped next-door neighbours, lent a helping hand to those in need or ventured into unchartered community service territories.
Internal collaboration is an asset. Many enterprises created working groups that promoted solutions by colleagues, for colleagues.
This is what we aim to promote at Impact Valley. Equipping individuals with the skills that will make them resilient.
We believe that the equation Agility + Empathy + Collaboration = Resilience could be the winning formula out of this crisis.
Resilience is defined as the ability of a living system to restore its systemic structure and functions after a disruption. If we were to draw parallels between the natural ecosystem and the enterprise ecosystem, we would understand that the most important attribute in times of crisis is resilience. The COVID crisis has forced enterprises to run on all cylinders to absorb the shock of the crisis and find adequate solutions.
Diversity, which is the complementarity between organisms in a system and the duplication of functions played by different species, increases the ecosystem’s resilience capacity.
In the same manner, a resilient enterprise is one that:
Diversifies its partners and income streams. The time is now for collective action towards systematic action.
Surrounds itself with trustworthy partners. This involves streamlining the whole value chain to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Does not neglect the individual resilience of their internal stakeholders. Community resilience cannot be achieved without individual resilience. A resilient enterprise supports its stakeholders through a crisis. A study by CodinGame, that collected data from 2000 developers, showed that 29% of the developers believed that their work-life balance had been destabilized by teleworking. Teleworking was commonplace among developers even before the crisis but now special care is needed to ensure that a balance is struck as steps are taken to adapt the work environment to the prevailing circumstances.
Implements policies that promote diversity in the workplace.
Takes into account the changing nature of the workplace. The organization can only be resilient if the workplace itself is resilient.
In summary, we are at a critical juncture that requires us to be more innovative than we have ever been as we seek solutions to current challenges. A paradigm shift in society’s guiding principles is crucial as we enter a new era. This calls for us to use all that we have within us as we build a new model. Rob Hopkins encourages us to do this in his new book. Why don’t we take a chance and let our imagination run wild? This may lead to the creation of the future we want.
These are concepts close to our heart at Impact Valley; concepts we are committed to. We are convinced that agility in an organization is conducive to an innovative, empathetic and empowering environment harnessing the contributions of all team members. We have no doubt that collaboration is based on collective intelligence and resilience in the building of a better tomorrow.
Together, let us sustainably innovate!
Rapport Deloitte Combating COVID-19 with an agile change management approach