Much has and will be written about the impact of the pandemic. After the 2008 financial crisis life seemingly settled into one of incremental and linear change again with the only exception being the advance of technology. This exponential nature has enabled whole new business models, and at the same time, given us the ability to optimize existing business models. The disruption caused by this was already gaining momentum. Our linear world was suddenly confronted by change in every aspect of our lives by the speed and scope of the pandemic. Our choices suddenly became very limited and our highly optimized manufacturing plants and supply chains were exposed as fragile and unable to cope with the surge in demand for the core technologies like notebooks as the place where work, learning and living shifted to the home.
Those parts of the economy that have been digitized or transformed into services thrived and often scaled massively as demand surged for collaboration and connectivity platforms. Inequality in income but also in access was brought into stark relief and its impact became even more pronounced. Uncertainty reached crisis proportions but because of our limited options and our very short operating horizons, we started to deal with it. We dealt with what was in front of us with what information we had. Experiments with different ways of thinking, learning, connecting and working which would have taken years to complete happened in weeks. It wasn’t always elegant but we learnt that good enough is sometimes just that. We also understood what it is to be truly human as we dealt with the loss of life, the absence of a simple hug and a face-to-face meeting.
Now our heads are starting to lift again. The uncertainty is by no means over and neither has our erratic supply chains become stable but growth is returning slowly. The South African economic data for February shows encouraging growth in our retail, mining and export sectors while some bumper crops are expected in agriculture. We have a long hill to climb and none more so than in the creation of jobs but with growth, we can start that journey.
I have a sense that we all want to return to a world of certainty and stability but does the opportunity not lie in the uncertainty and chaos. Growth does not happen when we are comfortable. We have all been asked to assess what is important to us and as businesses we have been asked to look carefully at the validity of our business models. We have learnt that our customers and employees are not data sets and above all, context matters deeply. It is imperative that we collaborate closer than before and learn from each other – it’s the only way we are going to cope with the impact of exponential technologies.
We will have to learn to sit comfortably in the uncertainty – that is if we want to be curious and grow.
[Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]