As a futurist specializing in critical decision-making, I have witnessed firsthand how the first few months of the pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for organizations worldwide.
In March 2020, we were all grappling with the unknowns of the virus, its restrictions, and its impact on our businesses. But in times of crisis, the difference between survivors and outperformers lies in their ability to remain innovative and forward-thinking.
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Assume the Worst, Plan for the Best: The Art of Dealing with Unpredictability.
One of my retail clients exemplifies this mindset. As soon as the first lockdown began, they called me in, eager to know how to stay ahead of the curve. I don't predict the future, but I do teach teams how to deal with unpredictability. So I advised them to assume that the pandemic would last at least a year and to assess their strategy and investments accordingly. —They assess strategy and investments once a year, so that's why I said a year.
Then I asked about their worst case.
They didn't say a full lockdown for one year because the government had financial compensation in place for that scenario. It would be much worse to have shops open (so no or less compensation), and not be allowed to have enough consumers inside the shops to make break-even. You can imagine how that would drain the organization of money and other resources.
Together, we brainstormed worst-case scenarios and devised innovative solutions to keep their business afloat. We assessed each solution by asking, "Can we simplify it? Can we piggyback on existing policies or solutions? Can we extend its use beyond the pandemic? Can we collaborate with others to share costs? Can we turn it into a revenue stream?"
In the end, they implemented 57 solutions and emerged as the first mall to reopen and the only shopping district to almost reach pre-pandemic traffic levels. Their success story demonstrates the importance of remaining innovative and investing in your business, even during times of crisis.
TRIZ: The Military and Space Industry's Secret Weapon for Dealing with Unpredictability
I'm incredibly proud of my client for showing such guts and foresight in their decision-making process. The process we used isn't new - I adapted it from the military and space industry's TRIZ methodology, which teaches the importance of using what you have and thinking creatively to overcome challenges. If you're interested in learning more, Wikipedia has a great section on TRIZ.
The pandemic has taught us that the only constant in life is change. By embracing innovation, staying passionate, and investing in your business, you too, can weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side. The road ahead may be uncertain, but with the right mindset and foresight, you can navigate it with confidence and ambition.
Three Lessons You Can Implement Today
- Lesson 1: Assume the worst and plan for the best. Take a moment to assess the potential impact of a crisis on your business. Assume the worst-case scenario and plan accordingly. Doing so will prepare you for any eventuality, and you can pivot your strategy if necessary. This step will ensure your business remains stable and avoids being blindsided by any unforeseen challenges.
- Lesson 2: Invest in innovation and creative thinking. Don't cut corners during a crisis - invest in your business! Keep innovating and thinking creatively to overcome challenges. Brainstorm new solutions, assess each, and invest in the best ones. This step will help your business stay ahead of the curve and outperform competitors.
- Lesson 3: Collaborate and share costs. Collaboration is key during a crisis. Identify potential partners who can help you share costs and navigate the challenges together. Working with others can open up new opportunities and provide a fresh perspective. By collaborating, you can build stronger relationships, gain new insights and grow your business sustainably.
By taking these steps, you'll ensure your business is resilient and can weather any crisis. You'll stay ahead of the competition, innovate, and collaborate with others, leading to a more sustainable and profitable future.
Doing foresight (when your efforts match the changes in your environment) does lead to outperformance. Here is the evidence:
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