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CIO Speak

Takeaways from the Covid experience 

The most important takeaway for all will be inculcating the humility to re-learn. And to re-start with the spirit of a startup, says Niranjan Gidwani, Independent Consultant Director and former CEO of Eros Group Dubai.

Until now, our world has always been referred to as the VUCA WORLD – a world of VOLATILITY, UNCERTAINTY, COMPLEXITY AND AMBIGUITY. VUCA is an acronym drawing from the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus.

However, taking inputs from a renowned strategic trainer, Captain Raghu Raman, who is also an armed forces veteran, the world is now become a RUPTured world. RUPT standing for Rapid, Uncertain, Paradoxical and Tangled. The world, which was earlier complicated, has now turned more complex. Covid has come as a wakeup shock. This world has learnt huge lessons from the Covid experience, most of them good and positive, yet some negative and selfish as well.

From countries, to politics, to Governments, to cities, to boardrooms, to houses, to families, to healthcare, to children – a new level of preparedness has already started gaining rapid momentum. For almost all countries and sectors, changes will be very highly dependent on technology. Digital will mandatorily be a part of mainstream strategy across the board, and this will also require all generations of people to think differently, regardless of age, caste, creed, color, race. Digital has, and will continue to make inroads in all areas of life, whether business, government, healthcare or security. Ecommerce and omnichannel has been fast forwarded by 4-5 years just in the past few months. Old decision-making styles may work in some cases, and up to a point, but will not be relevant for too long in a rapidly changing world.

The most important takeaway for all will be inculcating the humility to re-learn. And to re-start with the spirit of a Start Up. And while doing so, the new breed of leaders must realize that while performance is mandatory, if we cannot periodically disconnect, we cannot lead. Creating a culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity. This mentality would need to be introduced as a leadership and performance-enhancing mentality, starting from schools.

As the world will continue with the remote working model, user experience with intelligent automation has become even more critical. Organizations are, and will continue to realize more and more the value of Cloud. The Op-ex model, which leads to cost effective solutions, is becoming more prominent. In order to attain scalability in business, Uniformity, Simplicity and Standardization will become the key.

Covid has also acted as a catalyst for other global challenges like climate change and social inequality. Several months of lockdown have actually created a positive impact on nature, air, water, plant and animal life. National leaders will have to increasingly be more and more answerable for issues that have global repercussions. The process is slow, but the positive takeaway is that Covid has brought a lot of these issues more into the open.

The pandemic has also become an opportunity for corporates to shift from a purely self-serving profit objective towards a more inclusive mindset of all round growth of all its stakeholders. As can be seen, supply chain models are beginning to shift. More localization of production is likely to happen, beginning with critical items like medicines, communication equipment, and likely to extend to food and dairy supply. These will become essential areas of economic and national security. Needless to say, localization may drive up costs. But some amount of localization is here to stay for a few years.

Covid has also helped countries in realizing that they need to rapidly improve internal competencies in various disciplines. Those businesses and organizations who have started valuing their employees and business partners as humans rather than faceless entities will reap better long-term success. Covid has actually thrown up the difference between petty leaders and organizations, who constantly work for their own self-interest, and those who have demonstrated unprecedented social responsibility and philanthropy while compromising on their profits in these times. The socially responsible organizations during Covid will turn out to be better brands, and without realizing, may have invested well in intangible marketing of their organizations as brands.

At the society and family level, Covid has added immense value. Globally, a realization has dawned upon working men as to how tiring and thankless a job it is for women to look after home and family till the last day of their lives. It has given so called macho men a taste, a realization that thankless, unpaid work at home is more strenuous, more difficult to manage and juggle, with no formal appraisal processes, no motivational speakers to reward the womenfolk. And for working mothers, it has shown how much more difficult it is to be a working parent and also manage house and children without external help, even for a few months.

During the crisis, a realization has dawned among almost all that a handful of family, friends and neighbors are far more valuable than thousands of superficial networking contacts or followers on social media. The real positive that has come out starkly in these times is that the value of flesh and blood social networks far superseds all else. Thousands have reached out to care for the elderly as well as the ailing and the less fortunate ones, thereby creating new, and possibly lifelong generational relationships. The concept of ‘Individual social responsibility’ has taken a new meaning.

The rich and affluent hopefully will be more mindful and appreciate the value of the less privileged masses who some of us label as migrants. Posting videos of household chores and different kinds of meals has been fun for a few days or weeks, but as the weeks extend into months, the dignity of labor is surely going to be valued more. More of us have got wiser to the difference between having material possessions and being a capitalistic addict.

At the student community level, it is amazing to see how well, how responsibly majority of the students and fresh graduates have taken this difficult phase in their stride, without getting any serious and sustained assistance from the older generation of mentors. It is incumbent upon all of us to keep this new generation intelligently occupied and engaged, as sometime down the road, they will all be our new breed of customers whose buying patterns would be impacted by the Covid experience, and would need to be factored in.

The most amazing positives of the Covid experience have been the medical fraternity, the essential workers, the police and security, the fire brigade, the last-mile ecommerce delivery guys, and all those who need to keep the country, city, essential services running 24×7. A lot needs to be learnt from these energetic, passionate, committed yet exhausted workers.

Yet, it is important to mention that there is also a small breed of dishonest, selfish, manipulating individuals who have used even this once in a 100 years pandemic to further their selfish gains. Interestingly, even they teach us valuable lessons. And learning those lessons will still be a positive takeaway from this Covid experience.

According to Ariana Huffington, the most important key word coming out of the Covid experience is the word Resilience.

Resilience is often spoken about — including in the Oxford dictionary definition — in terms of navigating or simply getting through challenges. But the key part of resilience isn’t about bouncing back, it’s about bouncing forward. It’s about using adversity as a catalyst to get better and become stronger.

Right now we’re all waiting for a vaccine to bring the pandemic to an end. But our challenges won’t end when the pandemic does. And resilience is the vaccine we already have — it’s our immune system for the inevitable ups and downs of life. Just as with our body’s immune system, the hostile agents are always there and always coming at us. Resilience allows us to tap into deeper resources in ourselves we didn’t even know we had, not just to overcome the obstacles but to be transformed by them

As is truly said, the Chinese word for Crisis is made up of two characters – one denotes danger, and the other denotes opportunity.

Many people are convinced, and truly believe that the only things we need for success are talent, energy and personality. The Covid experience has taught us that, over the long haul, who we are as a race is more important than who we project or appear to be.

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