Innovation amid stress and uncertainty

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I’ve been astounded by the degree and speed of innovation and change these last few weeks.

Things that in normal times would have taken months or years to do have been accomplished in days, largely because people are banding together to help each other. In the midst of suffering, stress, and a good bit of fear, there is more kindness than ever.

And as a society, we’re learning faster than at any other time in my lifetime.

photo credit James Pond via Unsplash

People have shifted to remote work, retailers have ramped up store pickup services, governments have created relief programs, factories have shifted to making personal protective equipment, the Army is building temporary hospitals, and scientists and regulators are speeding new treatments to market. It’s impressive.

Here are eight things I’ve observed that can help us to weather this crisis, and can help us to apply what we’re learning from it:

1.    Ask what your company can do to serve the urgent needs of society. For example, how might you support the increased need for remote work, socializing, and healthcare.

2.    Retain as many employees as you can. If cash is short, first consider eliminating perks, or instituting an across-the-board pay cut (especially in the executive ranks).

3.    Communicate daily with employees about what needs to happen, and why. Convey optimism about your future, but realism about what it will take to reach that future. Listen to employees at all levels. They’ll see problems and opportunities that you don’t.

4.    Reallocate resources given your new priorities, and adjust your metrics as needed. Make sure that people feel successful, connected and contributing.

5.    Contact major customers to understand likely revenue, how their priorities have shifted, and what you can do to help them.

6.    Do your best to forecast cash flow. Connect with sources of additional capital. Talk to vendors about price and payment terms. Be ready to outlast this, and make sure cash flow constraints don’t box you into a corner.

7.    Consider how you can apply what you’re learning now to your future success. You’re likely learning a lot about how to work remotely (for example, making sales calls via video). Plan for how these new capabilities can be applied to create a long term boost in productivity.

8.    Consider what resources, capabilities and capital will be required to take advantage of changes in the market, once the pandemic is over. Put those pieces in place, so you’re ready for the recovery.

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