There are many Befores and Afters in our life. For me it was college, marriage, kids, P&G, 9/11, my daughter’s leukemia diagnosis. In each case, I was profoundly changed by the event that created the before and after. I was changed. How I approached challenges, solved problems, lived after was different than the before. Each made me a better, more knowledgable, compassionate or stronger person. So whether or not the event itself was positive or negative, in the end I had gained something that enhanced me as a human being. Right now, our global humanity is in a before and after event. It is sometimes overwhelming and frightening to consider, especially with my immune compromised mom and daughter in my circle of concern. I imagine, no matter where you are in your life, you have felt these things too. But in the midst of this craziness, I am seeing the through line of growth. Pay attention. You might see it too. Compassion–people reaching out to check on others or to do an act of kindness for others or big businesses redirecting their production capacity to create hand sanitizer, surgical masks, ventilators. Courage–people on the front lines showing up to work to carry on despite the uncertainty–health care workers, package delivery services, grocery and pharmacy staff, Leaders, especially Governors making hard calls to flatten the curve. Creativity–people innovating how they are living their lives in this new “Social Distancing” reality. Virtual cocktail parties or family reunions via Zoom or other apps. People using their 3D printers to create medical devices or sewing their own masks. Exploring new ideas and skills while cooped up at home now that you have time to explore. This virus has caused us to understand the difference of jobs and essential jobs, must do vs. nice to do and what really matters in life. For some, life has never been busier like our courageous health care workers. For others we have more time at home than ever before. This time can be a time of creative exploration or of reassessing what matters most in our lives.
There are lessons for us as business people too. Once in a design thinking session for a financial group we looked at all they were doing, measuring and reporting and discovered only ten things of the over 2000 things they were tracking and managing mattered. TEN. We redesigned the organization to focus on delivering the fewer focused items better. Maybe, just maybe this has been a gift to humanity to have time to really look at our lives, our businesses, our focus. Are we focused on what matters most? Can we redesign to better balance ourselves for heath and prosperity?
This event is shifting our after. How we think about socializing, proximity to people we don’t know, travel around the world, family priorities, work priorities is in the process of shifting. This provides a big opportunity to redesign our new normal. Products for the new germ aware and sanitized population need to be designed. As I wash, sanitize and consciously go through previously automatic actions, I see all kinds of new products for this brave new world that need to be invented. Our services need to evolve too to protect both those performing the service and those receiving. Again, I see all kinds of new business ideas. Perhaps “bigger is better” is an outdated model for business and entertainment. Perhaps more intimate experiences, more personal or right sized is what this new world needs. As we think about our doing of the business, unnecessary, nice to do, business trips might need to be eliminated. Yes, travel when truly face to face interaction is needed to establish a relationship or repair one or to negotiate a tough contract, but truly assess if all the busyness is essential.
Take a moment during this time of “sheltering in place” for non-essential jobs to reflect personally and professionally on what opportunities you have to simplify your life, to better balance it on the important. Look at your industry–where are you innovation opportunities in a new germ aware world, in advance of the likely next pandemic.
One more action to consider…lots of service providers are out of work, vulnerable kids are out of school. Count your blessings and be generous in any way you can. People are creating avenues–faith networks packing weekend lunches for kids or restaurants offering gift cards for later, where half the proceeds go to their staff who are out of work. Support this emerging need if you can.