If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s what it means to be resilient in a crisis — to mitigate impacts or shocks, and to respond and recover quickly. As we become hyperconnected, we know this won’t be the last pandemic we will face. In business as with public health, there is no room for complacency. Together, we must learn lessons from today’s crisis to prepare for whatever challenges the future may hold.
Key to building resilience, firstly, is realism: to recognise you have a problem and solve it. Secondly is optimism, to use crisis as an opportunity to become better than what you were when you entered the crisis, not worse. As we emerge from the pandemic, we know we’re not going back to the way things were. It’s time for investment - in technology, people, and for future generations. To this end there are three principles that organisations and businesses of all sizes should follow to become and remain agile in a changing world.
Learn to pivot between virtual and physical worlds
The difference between this pandemic and previous pandemics has been the ability of businesses to continue operating and serving customers, largely because of technology. COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of all aspects of our society. Where CEOs previously delegated their digital strategy, today more and more want to take direct leadership. They realise it’s imperative to the very survival of their business and building better resilience.
In an all-digital, work from anywhere world, from now on remote work will just be work. E-commerce will just be commerce. Video meetings will just be meetings. As the pandemic persists, and in preparation for the next crisis, whether global or local, from retail to education and healthcare, all industries must adapt to a world that is partly virtual and partly physical. Every company has to be able to work, sell, service, market, collaborate, and analyse data from anywhere.
Maximise diversity and empower teams to make decisions
It’s no secret that workplaces with greater diversity tend to be more innovative and successful. By maximising the diversity of teams, in terms of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, skills and knowledge, organisations will be more likely to consider surprises. Together teams can cultivate a company culture of leveraging different perspectives to consider where risks may come from and how they can respond when they occur. Businesses, by diversifying their products and assets, can also better position themselves to avail of economic opportunities.
Organisations should also look to deconcentrate decision-making. Many organisations, to their detriment, have tended to concentrate information and power in a single individual or place. Should something happen to that person or place, absence of planning can have ramifications for the entire system. By empowering more people with decision-making capacity, providing a greater sense of purpose, skills, and meaning at every level, organisations will become more resilient to disruption.
For everyone to flourish, we need to collaborate
We can’t be resilient against everything, but we can be strategic; allowing time to respond and minimise the worst possible impacts of a crisis. Whether it’s building things like vaccine manufacturing capacity or technologies to help us stay connected, it’s imperative that we develop sustainable solutions that will help businesses and society to flourish in unfamiliar situations. Take collaboration technology for instance. Although these tools existed before the pandemic, we’re going to continue to see a huge wave of innovation which will enable everyone to have success from anywhere.
As we emerge from the pandemic, parallels with the climate emergency are striking. Both require a collective response which is responsible and sustainable, now and for future generations. Just as the pandemic has taught us to understand what we truly value, to address climate change and overcome other challenges we must cooperate, prepare for the challenges ahead and continue our endeavour to better businesses and our societies.
Sanket Atal is SVP & Managing Director - Sites at Salesforce India.