The economic and societal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented. Yes, we’ve lived through traumatic events like 9-11 or the death of Robert of President Kennedy. These tend to be acute, horrific, and over quickly. We’ve also experienced chronic events that are extended of a period of time like economic downturns. These tend not to be as acute but still create a great deal of stress and loss. But COVID-19, and the resulting economic impact, has been both acute and chronic. It’s been a slow-motion train wreck that just won't quit. We've seen thousands of companies shut down forever, tens of millions of people around the world laid off, and over 2 million people who have lost their lives because of this pandemic. Many of us couldn’t wait to see the backend of 2020. And while we're starting to see things turning in a positive direction, there’s still no end in sight. But, there is an upside.
Sun Tzu said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” And he was absolutely right. We all know on a personal level that the greatest challenge to change is breaking out of the status quo. Crises have the unique ability to jar us out of complacency and into action. And that’s what’s happening now in organisations around the world. They’re being forced out of their complacency and asked to pinpoint and confront the things that matter most to them. In 2020 we've seen organisations realizing that the things they took for granted as the “must do's” are no longer as important. We all remember a time when the boss had to see you in the office to know you were working. We're all starting to realize some of those things aren’t as important as we once thought.
Darwin pretty much summed up the entirety of his body of work in one sentence when he said “It's not the strongest of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. And that has always been the case, whether in biology or business, the ability to evolve to adapt to grow has been key.Take for example the original list of fortune 500 companies. Only 52% of them are still in business today, and none of them is doing what they did back then. All of them adapted, evolved and grew.This notion of “adapt or die” can be pretty confronting for individuals and organisations alike. It’s a black and white directive that doesn’t sit comfortably with many of us. And this largely comes down to fear.Both as people and as organisations, we are afraid of the unknown. This goes back to our primal roots as we were hyper-alert to a strange sound, a shadow in the bushes or an unfamiliar sound. The only way to get past our fear is to find things that are more important to us than those fears. Anyone who has children will agree that there’s almost nothing you wouldn’t do for your kids. It’s not that the fear’s not there, it’s that there’s something more important than fear driving us. In an enterprise, your fear might be not being as financially successful this quarter. But you might have decided that your priority is providing a sustainable product and that you’re going to rally all of your energies behind that. Having clarity on that value and direction can override the fear of financial loss. If we're acting in line with our values and what truly matters to us, it becomes more important to us than the fear.
I've been the leader of a mom and pop shop where it's been basically me and the dog. I’ve also been on the executive committee of Fortune 50 companies. I've seen organisations of every size, structure, industry, and sector. In my experience being successful in adapting and transforming comes down to just four things: Strategy Human capital insights Insights Technology. In short, you have to know your sh*t. And you need to nail all four elements if you have any hope of leading successfully.
JT Kostmann will be expanding on these themes during his keynote at Mainstream Conference, 12-14 May 2021. Join JT as he shares some practical, tactical, actionable steps you can take to turn this potential disaster into an advantage for your organization – and for yourself.
About the Author
JT Kostmann started life as a homeless kid living on the streets of New York, before going on to serve as a Paramedic, Police Officer, and a Special Forces Soldier. He spent over a decade in the post-9/11 era developing cutting-edge capabilities for U.S. Intelligence, Defence, and Security agencies. JT now serves as the CEO of ProtectedBy.AI – where he and his teams bring companies and countries around the world Peace of Mind Through Superior Technology.
22 March 2023
Esplanade Fremantle, Perth