Traditionally, when an individual or organization fears change, it has something to do with digital technology disrupting their status quo. Will something autonomous replace my job? What if something is created that puts me completely out of business?
Aside from digital transformation, another wave of fear comes from new, fast-moving competition and the threat of loss of relevance and market share.
I have discussed at length these fears and many more, and how to become more anticipatory, paying attention to the hard trends that are shaping the future both inside and outside of your industry, how to see disruption and change before they strike, and most importantly how to identify and act on the opportunities they represent.
Few would have thought , in the early stages of 2020, our economy would be in a downturn, we would be instantly converted to remote work or, unfortunately for some, laid off, and we would be quarantined to our homes due to a global pandemic.
Whether you’re in business or not, ever since the Great Recession about a decade ago, it seems the majority of individuals will not admit to their tendency to sleep with one eye open on the economy. This “hope for the best but expect the worst” attitude can be useful, but it can also be dangerous, both for your health and well-being, and for your entrepreneurial ability to see and act on the many new opportunities disruptive change presents.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has, to a great extent, suppressed our positive, innovative mentality as a species, and has sent many of us into a primordial tailspin of trying to get back to the way things were—the status quo. Due to fear, we are finding ourselves in a real-world dystopian society, where individuals buy in bulk unnecessarily, prepping for the end of the world.
The pandemic will end and we will recover to another new version of normal. What if we made the new post-pandemic normal much better than what we had before? Is that possible?
It sure is, if we get past fear and reacting to the next disruptive problem and become anticipatory, using the power of disruptive change to create a better tomorrow for all.
Keep in mind that while times are highly uncertain in an all-encompassing way, this global disruption on a massive scale is also creating new ways to have a positive, significant impact on the present and the future.
Going Remote, No Matter Who
A global pandemic, shutdown, and quarantine are very similar to digital disruption: They know no boundaries and will disrupt every industry there is. However, what this pandemic disruption is showing us is that many organizations are quickly shifting to reposition their workforce to new roles or remote roles by digitally banding together and working efficiently from a distance.
It is easy to consider going remote when you have a desk job or a career that is already rooted in flex-time industries. However, what about those that don’t have it as easy?
Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR) are two technologies that have started gaining traction in recent years, given the exponential changes of the Three Digital Accelerators of bandwidth, computing power, and processing power, which I have discussed since the early 1980s. Now more than ever, we can see industries — which ordinarily are unable to go remote because they were based on the need for a customer to be physically present — figure out ways to provide a remote customer experience.
An incredibly outside-the-box example can be found by way of museums, zoos, and even theme parks going remote. Monterey Bay Aquarium and Walt Disney World have gone remote using live-streaming video and a form of virtual reality applications like Google Street View, so guests having to cancel their vacation can still “walk through” Disney World with their families for something to do.
If Walt Disney World, an in-person entertainment giant with visceral experiences, can find a way to go remote, imagine the remote possibilities in several other industries around the world.
Innovation Is Needed More Than Ever
While our worlds may seem to be in a period of indefinite stasis, the world and peoples’ needs don’t stop. A hard trend most people take for granted is that there are more than 500 cycles that continue, such as the sun setting tonight and rising tomorrow, the stock market going down and going up, and the pandemic beginning and ending.
If you have followed my writings, you know that I want us all to become positive disruptors, creating the disruptions that need to happen in order to make the world a better place for all.
Being a disruptor during times like these might sound contrary to what people want. However, when you’re a positive disruptor, you choose significance over success, focusing much less on you and what you have done, and more on what you can do for others in a significant way.
When you look for ways to elevate your significance in times like these, you can find new ways to change your community, your state, your nation, and, if you think big enough, even the world for the better. I can’t think of a more needed time than right now. Ask yourself: What can you and your organization do now that would have a significant impact on others?
Stop looking at this economic and social slowdown as a time to wallow in the disruption of your status quo. It is also a free pass to innovate as much as you can! An identifiable hard trend based on the science of cycles is that the pandemic will end and the market and economy will bounce back. So in the meantime, focus on the positive difference you can make and what you can disrupt in a positive way — what you can do now to make a difference by helping others. The needs are massive and so are the opportunities to make a significant difference!
Looking for Opportunity in Helping Others
Consider this: Perhaps your organization has shifted to remote work with ease, whereas a customer of yours in a similar industry is struggling and falling behind. Is there a way to help them now? What if, in this unusual time of need, you didn’t charge them for the help? Would they remember that generosity in the future?
This pandemic has inadvertently leveled the playing field; therefore, no one is safe from disruption, and this global disruption is happening a lot faster than digital disruption. We’re all in the same boat, so one major way to innovate is to find ways to help your customers through this in ways you haven’t thought of before. You’re thinking too small if you are thinking of offering them a discount on your product or service. It’s better to look at their desperate needs now and ways that help them stay afloat, which in turn might help you stay afloat.
This concept isn’t solely constrained to business and customer relationships. This touches on the topic of thinking about your employees who rely on you. You may be in business as a unified organization, but an employee now working remotely with kids at home and having to now think in terms of profits and losses in their personal life has unmet needs as well that you need to think about and act on. As you work to keep the doors open, what are you doing to take care of your own?
Let’s return to the entertainment industry with an example of the National Basketball Association shutting down during this crisis. While it is no secret that owners, players, and team affiliates will be financially okay during this situation, the workers at the snack bars, restaurants, and merchandise stores will feel a major financial impact, if they can survive at all. However, many teams have stepped up and donated portions of their salaries to cover the losses the service employees will feel while out of work, which in turn incentivizes them to continue to work for the stadiums and gives them a sense of belonging to the organization.
That has already created a positive change throughout the rest of the NBA, as other teams follow suit and help their fellow man and woman when in need. This positive disruption is spreading to other sports faster than any virus!
Anticipation Will Get You Through This
Hard times will pass, but the hard trend in times of complete uncertainty is that a new day will dawn with new opportunities to make a significant difference unfolding with it. There will be a tomorrow, so what are you doing to anticipate, innovate, and seize the opportunity it brings with it? Are you using this pandemic to be a positive disruptor, or will COVID-19 close your business’ doors for good? It doesn’t have to.
As my good friend W. Mitchell, who has been through several major accidents, says; “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do about it.” The way I see it, COVID-19 isn’t our biggest problem, it’s what we are doing, or not doing about it. Those of you who have read my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization, know one of my principles is this: Take your biggest problem and skip it. The real problem for your business isn’t the virus, it’s how you are reacting to it. Don’t panic. Focus on defining the real problem both you and your customers are having and use the certainties found in hard trends to reveal a solution.
There will be a future after the pandemic. If you are anticipatory, pre-solving predictable problems before you have them and becoming a positive disruptor creating the transformations that need to happen, you will find the future is bright.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurist speakers on global trends and disruptive innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in highest demand as a speaker. This article originally appeared in the April 2020 edition of The Statement, the official member magazine of the Maryland Association of CPAs and is reprinted with permission.