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Bouncing Forward

by Ulises Pabón

Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

In physics, resiliency is the term used to describe the ability of a substance or an object to spring back into shape. In the social sciences, it refers to the capacity of a person or of an organization to recover quickly from adversity. Both definitions illustrate resiliency’s Latin root ‘resilire’, which means ‘to recoil or rebound’.

The more we help people and organizations bounce back from the challenges brought forth by COVID-19, the more we realize that what they need to do is to bounce forward. Bouncing back suggests that we will be able to return to the Pre-COVID-19 state-of-affairs. Bouncing forward recognizes that things have changed.  But have they?

“Of course they have!” I can hear you shouting. Well, yes and no. Some things have changed, some things haven’t. Without a doubt, COVID-19 has been a business disrupter and game-changer. Yet, closer inspection will reveal we are actually experiencing a mix of sudden changes, tectonic shifts, and long-lasting trends.

Sudden Changes

The minute COVID-19 entered our lives, things changed fast. The need to flatten the curve and control the propagation of the disease required swift measures that changed the rules of the game for all of us in a matter of days.

Businesses adopted new practices to assure the health and safety of their employees and their customers. They shifted their operating models and their product portfolios to cater to new customer needs and to operate in, what has been called, a touchless economy. These changes were a direct consequence of the pandemic.

While some of these changes are here to stay (see Tectonic Shifts, below), some will disappear once COVID-19 becomes endemic. Others will fade away as the world population becomes immune to COVID-19. For sure, this will not happen tomorrow. But it's important to recognize which COVID-19 related changes have a lifetime commensurate to the virus itself.

Tectonic Shifts

Tectonic shifts are fundamental changes brought forth or dramatically accelerated by the pandemic. These changes will outlive COVID-19. They include shifts in attitudes and behaviors that will prevail once COVID-19 is history.

For example, business leaders and managers have adopted a different view regarding how work gets done. Work-from-home is now seen as a legitimate and viable practice. While we could argue that this idea predates COVID-19 (see Longlasting Trends, below) it was mostly seen as an interesting experiment performed by daring companies. COVID-19 drove this idea into mainstream thinking.

Bouncing forward requires recognizing these shifts and incorporating them into our agenda for the future.

Longlasting Trends

The disruptions caused by COVID-19 consume our attention and effort. In the heat of the moment, it's easy to forget about long-term changes that have been under development for years and that will continue forward, with or without COVID-19. These patterns of change - longlasting trends - will continue to shape the future.

For example, developments in Artificial Intelligence, Business Analytics, Automation, and other leading-edge disciplines will continue to plow ahead. As business leaders, we need to keep these longlasting trends on our radar screen and incorporate into our business plans the effects they will have on our customers and in our industry.

In Closing

Differentiating between sudden changes, tectonic shifts, and longlasting trends will encourage you to think about the future and will foster a bouncing-forward mindset. Engage your team in this discussion as you charge ahead into recovery.

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