Resilience > stability

I recently read Simon Sinek’s latest book, The Infinite Game. It has a lot that can be applied to the current situation we’re in with COVID-19. One I’ve been thinking about the past week is the need to build companies for resiliency rather than stability.

And it’s how companies perform in times of crisis that determines the difference. Here’s how Sinek puts it:

An infinite-minded leader does not simply want to build a company that can weather change but one that can be transformed by it. They want to build a company that embraces surprises and adapts with them. Resilient companies may come out the other end of upheaval entirely different than they were when they went in (and are often grateful for the transformation.

Sinek said something similar in a virtual meeting with his team that he posted on his YouTube channel:

Leaders who are building companies for stability are simply waiting for the current crisis to pass so they can go back to doing the exact same thing as before. But crises always leave their mark and leave the world in a different place. Resilient companies understand this and are – right now – planning for what they’ll do differently in a different world.

Pandemic as Portal

In the FT yesterday, novelist Arundhati Roy wrote:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Roy was primarily talking about her native India, hoping that the mishandling of the pandemic by the country’s political leaders would become a portal to a better world. I know little of Indian politics, but my experience in American politics has left me less than hopeful that the end result of COVID-19 will be meaningful government change.

What is undeniable though is that consumers will change and force businesses to change with them. Something of this scale and duration will leave its mark, changing attitudes and behaviors long after it’s worst is behind us.

The challenge for businesses will be determining which consumer changes due to COVID-19 are temporary and which are permanent. Restaurants, who have quickly ramped up takeout and delivery, may find that consumers prefer this new way of doing things. Likewise for auto dealers who started picking up their customer’s vehicles and dropping them off after service.

What about telemedicine and other increases in video communication? Will consumers after the pandemic prefer talking to a nurse on Zoom rather than visiting a busy clinic surrounded by other sick people? How about the meeting with my financial advisor? Will I prefer Facetime to a drive across town, especially in the winter?

Consumers have changed in many obvious ways during the global pandemic. Which changes are likely to stay and which will go away once commerce starts flowing again?

Remember that today’s customer experience innovations become tomorrow’s baseline expectations. Start preparing for those expectations today.

Never Waste a Crisis

Never waste a crisis. Depending on which Google link you follow, that was first said by Niccolo Machiavelli or Winston Churchill (both of who I enjoy immensely, BTW). Whoever said it, it’s been on my mind these past few weeks during the economic slowdown caused by the government response to COVID-19.

It was also a frequent theme in Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others, which I read while trying to discern what leading in this crisis would require of me.

In the book, author Justin Menkes tells the story of a new CEO who was facing almost insurmountable problems. But, instead of correcting the problems, “he embarked on changing the whole organizational culture to one that focused on putting forth excellence in every aspect of the business.

Most people resist change until forced. That’s why, as a business leader, you should never waste a crisis. The CEO mentioned above used the crisis to force the kind of tectonic shift in the company that made it less susceptible to future crises. As Menkes writes, he “fixed the cause of the problem, and the problem itself went away.

How are you going to make sure you don’t waste this crisis? Have your people grown complacent and in need of a motivational purpose? Have they become siloed and lacking a rallying cry to unite them? Have they gotten sloppy and ready to be called back to excellence? That’s the role of the leader.

Don’t simply respond to the crisis. Use it to become the kind of organization that is impervious to crises.

There’s a lot more to say about this book, and I will likely say more here. If you want more now, I recorded an episode of Mastering Your Mindset on Better Under Pressure: