The Future is not what it used to be

A Roadmap for Business Leaders in a Pathless Land

The year 2020, synonymous with perfect vision and clarity, has not really lived up to its promise. Its arrival has served to remind those of us in business who regularly make plans, budgets, vision statements, that the future isn’t always a straight-line or any trend-line projection of the past. The future looks hazy and indistinct and no one can say with any confidence, when life will be back to what it seemed before 2020.

As it was said by a wise one, in more certain times – The Future is not what it used to be!

Unless one is Netflix or Jio, businesses are drawing up survival and recovery plans, some fortunate few in “virus-free” and “virus-aided” sectors are adapting for growth – and many nimble opportunists are jumping on the bandwagon to make masks and PPE kits!

Much of this is driven more by the innate human belief that the Future will be better than the past, a hope that things will get back to “normal” – rather than facts or certain knowledge. No one really knows, what this post Covid world will be like. As a great seer said, (of Truth), a 100 years ago, this New Normal is indeed a pathless land!

Yet, we have to make our way in this world. There is reasonable agreement among business thinkers, observers and doers on the essential features of the new normal, yet, what does it mean for business leaders who have to navigate their organisations in this uncharted landscape?

  1. Conserving cash, reducing costs. With the disruption of incomes and revenue streams, from the neighbourhood store, to the largest multi-national corporations, it has become an necessity to focus on essentials and eliminate un-necessary costs. This needs business owners and leaders, to often make difficult choices and tradeoffs – choices about what costs are “good” and what costs are “bad”
    a. Should we retain the people who are critical for current operations, or for long term success ? Should we retain those who need the job the most, or those who have been most loyal to the business?
    b. How much office real-estate and travel cost is really necessary, to carry on business as effectively as before in the new world ? Can work be re-organised or restructured to increase effectiveness of remote work-forces ?
    The ability to prioritise & discriminate and make these choices, will set the leaders apart from the rest
  2. Regaining the Consumer. A business without consumers and revenues (yes, I know some start-ups buck this belief) is a dead business. With the disruption of physical travel, movement and interaction – businesses across the product spectrum are innovating their business model to reconnect with the consumer by:
    a. “Virtualising” their product or service – whether its Makemytrip offering “streaming vacation experiences”, artists and performers connecting through online concerts or online classes started by schools and universities
    b. Promoting “contactless sales” – through the online channel and home deliveries, company salesforces connecting with distributors through “whatsapp video”, from the safety of their homes
    The ability to Innovate and “think in the digital world” will be the critical determinant of success
  3. Balancing Risk. Risk has usually been relegated to a distant consideration, when business leaders take decisions – driven more by trade-offs between cost and service. But as the last 4 months has shown, “Risk” is a very real thing, the perception of which has kept a large number of us indoors, socially distanced from work, friends and family. As businesses restart physical operations – be it manufacturing, construction or transportation of physical goods, they have to estimate risk and the value they are willing to spend to avoid or mitigate risk.
    a. When is it safe to reopen facilities, sites and offices ? How much money should be spent to implement “social distancing” and hygiene practices at work ?
    b. Can operations be continued even while infections spread at the work-place – live and burning questions in many manufacturing sites today ?
    c. What incentives to offer the work-force, to keep the operations “lights-on” ?

    All these questions, require business leaders to choose between a tangible / certain measure – Cost and a relatively fuzzy, intangible and probabilistic measure like Risk. This is different from the risk-taking ability of entrepreneurs. Lives and livelihoods are at stake and it needs all leaders and professionals to take day-to-day decisions- informed with an intuitive and balanced understanding of risks, their likelihood, impact and mitigation

While we may not as yet perceive it fully, the pandemic has changed our world, permanently. It is our responsibility as business leaders to prepare our organisations and ourselves for an, as yet ‘emerging Future”.

Gazing into the Expert Crystal-Ball to Understand the Covid World

Trend-spotters, Historians, Analysts, Futurists -there is no dearth of experts who have expounded on the shape of the world to come. Here is a curated collection of thoughts and views on the future of education, work, travel, cities and globablisation
On Education – The end of college as we knew it
On Work and Workplaces – Is the Home-bound “remote” worker here to stay?
On Travel and Leisure – As terms like staycations and workcations gain ground – will the vacation experience change forever?
On Globalisation – Will Covid accelerate a trend that has been been in place for many years now – or will it reverse globalisation with our experience of a shared humanity?
On Cities – Learning from the past, can urban planning take care of the needs of large sections of a society, rather than only a privileged few

#newnormal #pandemic #futurecovid #conservecash #reducecosts #planthepandemic