This article was originally posted on the Forbes Technology Council. Click here to read the original article.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the globe have learned hard lessons about the economy, the nature of work and the 7.6 billion people we share the planet with.
Many of these lessons won’t come as real surprises. Some are just things we haven’t had a chance to test with empirical experience and real-time feedback. Here are six “unsurprising surprises.” (Think of them as “owl legs,” which I’ll explain in a moment.)
1. Undesignated Drivers
The real drivers of business decisions always boil down to the same old KPIs: increasing revenues and profits, cutting costs or generating shareholder value (which are often just three sides of the same coin). Or maybe not. When things change quickly, other drivers may be the real forces at play. I think it’s time to fully factor these into our decision-making:
- Risk mitigation
- Occupational health and safety
- Employee engagement
- Situational awareness
If this language sounds more military than corporate, that’s not just a coincidence; it’s the nature of responding to the unexpected.
2. The Weakest Links
Many weak links and vulnerabilities are routinely swept under the rug. If your business relies on a small field service team that is at risk for a contagious disease, how many sick employees can your operation afford before service levels become unacceptable? For many, the answer is in the single digits.
On a brighter note, those risks may be easier to mitigate than you might think. Turns out, homemade masks and social distancing are effective tools in a pinch, according to the CDC.
3. Shift Happens
Spoiler alert: Companies can be incredibly nimble. Many companies pivoted overnight from vehemently opposing working from home to training everybody on the finer points of Zoom.
It’s easy to fall back on the status quo because, hey, enterprises are like aircraft carriers, not speedboats — we can’t just turn on a dime. But it turns out that workforces can adapt quickly. If we can all become instant Zoom experts, maybe it’s not so crazy to explore and embrace other changes.
4. Hordes Of Hoarders
What drives consumer panic?
Fear is a powerful motivator. You know that social media mantra the “fear of missing out?” Turns out that when the pandemic first hit, the main thing a lot of people were afraid of missing out on was an adequate supply of toilet paper.
We hear about this dynamic all the time at my organization from companies that are investing in field service automation because they’ve recognized the value of getting ahead of the risks that can create pain points for their customers.
Their customers aren’t worried about TP. They’re worried we’ll run out of electricity or internet connectivity because a five-dollar part fails or because a technician got sick. Their solution isn’t to stock up on an overflowing closet full of TP but to develop systems that let them stock up on knowledge and insights about their operations, so they can take appropriate actions before a catastrophe strikes.
5. All Workers Are Essential Workers
As a human being, you probably already know this one. But as a business leader, do you always walk the talk? Ask yourself what you can do to empower your teams to:
- Do their best work
- Contribute the most value
- Know they are appreciated
Not Everything Is A Zero-Sum Game
The current climate makes it clear that treating health care as a zero-sum game — pitting the insured against the uninsured — is short-sighted and only guarantees that there are no winners. The catastrophic effects of pandemics (and other public health issues, like the rise in new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria) don’t distinguish between who has insurance and who doesn’t. I believe our collective resistance to these kinds of threats is only as strong as the weakest link.
Now, I’m not an expert on health care policy, but the underlying lesson applies to some areas in which I do have some relevant experience. For example, if you think of field service as a cost center, it’s tempting to think that your prime directive should be to reduce those costs whenever possible.
But just as health care is a more complex chessboard than a simple zero-sum game, field service is more than a necessary evil to be minimized. If you can streamline costs through automation or other cutting edge tech — that’s great. But what’s more is that you’ll also be reducing risks and improving the quality of your customers’ experiences.
So, About Those Owl Legs
Many of these post-pandemic learnings have been unexpected — but also predictable. But if you ever had stopped to focus on them, you probably could have predicted them.
You could think of them a bit like owl legs. If someone asked you to describe an owl’s legs based solely on the picture that flashes into your head, you’d probably say that they’re stubby, practically nonexistent limbs that make a short hop to connect the talons to the body.
But if you pause a moment to think about it, you might find yourself on an entirely different train of thought:
“Hmm…I’ve never really seen what’s going on with owl legs. They’re all covered up by feathers or fur or whatnot. But aren’t owls birds? And don’t birds usually have those scrawny twig-like legs? And don’t owls hunt rodents? Seems like it would be hard for them to swoop down and pluck up a field mouse with their wings because (a) those wings aren’t really shaped for plucking things up, and (b) those wings are busy with the whole flying thing. So their legs must be a lot like those mechanical claw doodads you use to extend your grasp to pick up the remote that you dropped behind the couch.”
And you’d be right.
Sometimes you just need to change your perspective to see the unsurprising surprises right in front of you. In our “new normal,” we can no longer ignore the urgent needs right in front of us.