We all thought Brexit was a game changer, didn’t we? Then along came 2020. The likely outcomes of Brexit were reasonably predictable, even though people often talked about ‘Brexit uncertainty’. Brexit preparations for businesses were straightforward compared to post-COVID-19.
What happens after the current crisis ramps down is completely unknown. Whether the transitionary period of the UK leaving the EU is extended or not, the coming months and years are unknowable. This is uncertainty on steroids.
How can businesses plan for success now?
Prepare to survive or prepare to rise
There is one thing we can always be sure of in any situation. Some businesses will fare better than others. We know this because we have seen it before.
Think of the transformative events of just this century – the dotcom bubble burst, the New York terrorist attacks, the global financial crash, the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, the Greek financial emergency and more. Economies in country after country have been shaken up time and time again. And new successes emerge from the rubble.
There have always been some players that have reacted better than others. Where domestic industries have been wiped out, other areas have thrived. Traditional trades may have declined, but millions of jobs have also been created to benefit low income communities, in areas such as IT.
The stakes are higher this time
The current crisis is different though. It is more sweeping. It is truly everywhere, touching every country and every industry, threatening global industries, like aviation, as never before. That makes it more difficult to navigate than any previous peacetime crisis.
And all that is without the looming challenges of climate change and growing environmental activism. The climate movement may be quiet now but is certain to return with renewed commitment based on new evidence. Crystal clear canals in Venice are persuasive images.
Undoubtedly some organisations will handle their situations better than others. Companies must not only survive lockdown, but plan how to thrive when the clamps are eventually released. Things cannot go back fully to the way they were.
A new wave of business models
Will pay-as-you-go virtual gym classes replace the establishments that we’ve so long paid for by monthly subscription? Will we buy cars online with no need for shiny showrooms? Will universities teach in completely new ways? Can the 9-5 office even survive?
Is it pointless to speculate about what will be different? Perhaps, but equally, companies must be ready to shift to disruptive business models. Possibly finding new ways to take advantage of growing mobile connectivity and data sharing. Or tapping into the power of markets, incentives, analytics or the wisdom of crowds. This might be a good time to reboot initiatives that were on the horizon, but never made it out of the blocks.
As we all face a prolonged period of unrivalled uncertainty, flexibility becomes more important than it has ever been, and by a long chalk. Businesses must be ready for any outcome. Agility is just one part of the jigsaw. Making full use of data, freeing up resources through automation and applying emerging tech like conversational voice UIs all need to be adopted post-haste for post-Covid-19 success.