Businesses must learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and accept the cyclical nature of disruption

Jun 3, 2021 | Blog Post

A top global strategist based in London advises TechRepublic to be better prepared for the next transformative journey, as it may emerge while the current transformation is still ongoing.

Organizations need to acknowledge that whether it’s a minor obstacle or a significant wave of change, once one challenge is overcome, another one will follow closely behind. In other words, if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the fast-paced nature of sudden change. Businesses cannot rest on their success in dealing with the pandemic, but accept the cyclical nature of disruption.

“The ‘new normal’ for organizations is a context where we have to face disruption after disruption,” said Constantinos C. Markides, a world-renowned strategist and professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School. Markides’ latest book, is “Organizing for the New Normal: Prepare Your Company for the Journey of Continuous Disruption.”

Every organization, regardless of their recent digital transformation success, now confronts the challenge of preparing for the next disruption. Markides emphasizes that this is crucial for business leaders to thrive in their upcoming challenges.

Markides states, “Change happens so rapidly that we barely have time to react to one disruption before another arrives.” He cautions that while we may have adapted to life with COVID-19 and attained some stability, the next disruption looms on the horizon.

He warned: “The challenge for organizations is not to just respond to a disruption, however devastating it might be. The challenge is to prepare and organize for a world of continuous and overlapping disruptions.”

Markides is fully aware of the initial successes that many organizations achieved at the beginning of the pandemic, a time when the severity, duration, and impact of the situation were not yet fully understood.

“The biggest surprise for me was how quickly we adjusted to this particular disruption and how collective the effort was in fighting it,” he said. “To develop and commercialize vaccines for this virus in less than a year, rather than the expected 10 years, is nothing short of miraculous.”

A collaborative effort can contribute to success. “To get so much cooperation among companies and countries in our fight against it is also admirable. And for organizations to adjust to the new reality of home working so smoothly and so quickly is quite impressive. I was surprised because we’ve seen disruptions before, but the response this time was exceptional. Even with ongoing issues like climate change, we haven’t seen a similar impressive reaction. Based on my research, the key challenges companies encounter in the new normal, like embedding agility and maintaining a sense of urgency, still apply after the pandemic.

He also highlighted resilience and rebound during COVID: “The pandemic has shown that human beings as well as societies are much more resilient than we thought. Look at how quickly we have all adjusted to working from home. Look at how quickly national economies are rebounding from the economic effects of the pandemic.”

Nevertheless, Markides cautioned, “The pandemic will have influenced the specific approaches we use to tackle these challenges.”

There is a historical context to consider, said Markides. “We had pandemics in the past. We also had great world wars, as well as other major catastrophes and disruptions. There’s no reason to think that we will not have major catastrophes in the future. I am sure we will. The problem is we don’t know what major disruption will hit us or when or how. The best way to prepare for the unknown is to remain agile so that we are ready to respond whenever. The other thing we know is important is attitude. People and organizations that approach disruptions with a positive attitude tend to do better in their responses. Educating people to develop a positive attitude is probably the best way to prepare for the next disruption.”

He also noted that besides everyone adapting to the work and lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic. It pleasantly surprising how people across the globe handled lockdowns with minimal resistance or objections. He particularly admired China’s handling of the pandemic and expressed a desire to learn from their experience.

The future workplace will correlate to the roles the employees have in their workplaces. According to Markides: “The most immediate thing that we will see is the emergence of the hybrid working environment. Every company will adopt the hybrid model that is most appropriate, but the key elements of this new model will be that we will be working a few days at home and a few days in the organization.”

SEE: What Have We, As Software Outsourcers, Learned From The Pandemic

Some employees, like back-office staff, will work more from home, while others, like those in customer-facing roles, will be at the office more.

He concluded that the pandemic highlighted technology’s vital role in our daily lives at home and in fighting the disease. This insight will form the basis of his next book, exploring how technology and innovative business models can address societal issues like climate change, urban crime, and pollution. Applying lessons from COVID-19 to tackle these challenges is of significant importance in a world grappling with multiple social problems.

N.F. Mendoza

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