We live in a challenging and exciting time. With the Corona crisis, the future might seem chaotic and uncertain. It’s only human to be fearful and even initially paralysed to the point of inaction. But for leaders, it needs to be more.
Change drives new attitudes and behaviours, new ideas, and solutions. If we see innovations take off rapidly in good times, when there is no need to change, imagine how the right ideas can grow when there really is a burning platform.
Look at our changing behaviours right – everybody is suddenly working from home, quickly realising that multi-screen video conferencing, mixed with playing with the kids, and saving on the torturous daily commute is not so bad. Or when calling a doctor, we are asked to shift to online screening and video calls, which are far more personal and efficient for both. Or as schools close, kids form a peer to peer learning groups, online seminars, and interactive assessments.
The new lifestyles have been possible for some time, now we are using it. Afterward, will we go back to the old ways?
Seismic changes that lead to downturns are nothing new – economic cycles that thrill us in the upturns, and then just when we realise that times are good, we’re on that rollercoaster to tough times again.
Business progress is marked by a cycle of boom times and struggles. And whilst the external world may be largely responsible for the disruption in growth, the result is often a time of frantic innovation as businesses use a downturn to reset and reinvent themselves and their industries. As we enter the so-called fourth industrial revolution maybe it is not so surprising that the world’s economies are looking more turbulent again.
57% of companies were founded in a downturn
A study by the Kauffman Foundation found more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list, 57% to be precise, were launched during a recession or bear market.
That means it’s likely that right now, amidst apparent economic chaos, some of tomorrow’s best companies are just getting their start. All of these companies started during the midst of recessions, seizing the opportunity of changing attitudes and behaviours, as others battled to survive:
- Disney … Walt Disney Productions launched their first animated cartoons in the depth of the 1929 Great Depression, bringing a smile to people in tough times
- Burger King … started as Insta-Burger in California, using a new machine called an Insta-broiler to cook meat faster and cheaper as post-war America struggled in 1953
- Microsoft … Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak launched their first software in the downturn of 1975 as companies sought efficiency through collaboration and speed.
- CNN … Ted Turner launched the world’s first 24-hour news channel in 1980 as the USA plunged into a double-dip recession, and people had an urgent hunger for fast news.
- Apple … In 2001 Steve Jobs launched the iPod amidst the debris of the dotcom bubble bursting all around, reviving the fortunes of Apple which started in 1975’s downturn.
These companies typically jumped on moments of change, as moments to start anew. Not with the same old businesses as before, but with new concepts and new business models. Where it offered something at a much cheaper price, or faster and easier, or a latent opportunity just waiting for some airtime.
Finding your North Star to survive and thrive
Of course, looking after people is the first priority, staying safe and healthy, and helping those in most need. Business can help short term – like we see right now with LVMH turning its perfume factories to making hand sanitizer, Tesla making hospital ventilators in its car plants, Inditex making protective clothing for health workers.
Then business turns to the challenge of survival the current economic shocks, to get through what is likely to be a significant global downturn, probably a recession. There are big challenges, but also opportunities:
- Survive – cut all non-essential costs, and preserve cash – better to close temporarily than to limp along at full cost, like the airline SAS has already done by immediately shutting down for an unlimited time, but with plans to return.
- Thrive – this might mean finding new ways to operate – right now, for example, we are seeing a huge surge in people switching to digital services, e-Education when schools are closed, e-Health when we need urgent care.
- Connect – use the time wisely – be it in terms of supporting social efforts, like switching your production lines to produce healthcare products – or in terms of improving yourself – new skills, new ideas, new educations – and staying positive.
Being set adrift in a stormy sea means that all the strategies and plans you did have are thrown away. Instead, you need something to keep guiding you. Something to give you direction, and maybe a little hope. Something to frame what you could do, not just what you did do. Purpose is your North Star:
- Purpose – finding your bigger idea is more important than ever right now – like sailors in stormy seas, we need a rough direction to head in, but this is your choice – not just what you do now, but your bigger ambition, passion and goals.
- Concepts – once you have a purposeful direction, what is the value you bring – how do you make the world better in some way – start to create strategic concepts, big ideas beyond today’s business, ways you could make a mark on the world.
- Actions – aligning your actions to the purpose and concepts – some of it might be doing what you do now, simpler or faster or cheaper; some of it will be doing new things, adjacent and aligned to your current activities, but guided by purpose.
With a clear sense of purpose, even the stormiest seas can seem less bewildering – or days locked in your home, might seem like a unique opportunity to pause and think about where you are going in life and work. With a clear sense of purpose, you can steer your way through and out of today’s chaos, to find a better tomorrow. But start now!
We have brought some of the best minds together to help you develop new strategies and business models for the future. Timing is perfectly right now, when competition is fighting for short term turnaround and survival.
This is the time for building up and becoming the future leader and gamechanger! This can be done by rethinking leadership, structure, marketing, digitalization, and business models. We probably have the best minds in the world in some of these areas. Take a look at our team, their background, and results.