This virus clearly hit humanity pretty hard in many ways. First and foremost the losses of lives. And it comes hand in hand with a very saddened human behavior: “oh the ones that died were already so old and already ill…” did we give up on the value of life? The value of currently 25,000 lives? Over 500,000 are infected. And obviously our general life is fundamentally narrowed down to the apartment we live in. If we have an apartment. 75% of people have not. The people in large parts of Africa, Asia and quite some parts in Latin America have not. They live on a daily income of $5 or less. They have to go out and work whatever is available. We learned from our friends in Uganda, Kenya and other nations: Most of their people have two options: starving to death or getting the virus that they most likely survive – the decision is simple. That is the decision about 1 billion people have to make right now. So corona is no joke, no hype and no conspiracy.
However, we also will learn more from Corona, than most think today:
1) The importance of the English Language
Many of us read the news and daily updates from around the world every morning. We know already what worked and what didn’t from China, from South Korea, from Singapore and many other Asian countries. But this is only if you speak English or are digital savvy enough to automatically translate everything into your language. In recent discussions we learned that far more than half of the governments in the world do not speak english. They are dependent of what others tell them what is happening. Also those who are looking for test equipment, treatment, best practices, what type of hygiene measures they may consider long before the rest of the word slowly woke up. The English language no longer is the universal language for doing business around the globe, it is the number one language of communication also in any kind of crisis. Speaking one common language – at least as a second language – is paramount for our survival, not only in business but also in our general life. And it will also closing the gap between rich and poor, My proposal for the United Nation: Making “English as a common language on earth” the SDG #18.
2) Digital Empowerment
In only 10 weeks the world has turned to digital faster than all the efforts of even the most powerful governments on earth in the last 10 years. Companies with a home office concept could almost seamlessly transition from their office buildings to home offices. But going digital is not only an emergency action to stay in business: In the past few weeks we had far more client interactions online than ever before. Trying to setup a meeting, finally finding a convenient day and time, traveling an hour to do a meeting for another hour is over. TODAY: “Do you have a moment?” – “Sure – give me 5 minute” – “How can I help” – We have this and that issue … Ok ….” 15 minute later, everything was done. And not next week – but immediately. We accelerated work by 2.5 hours and reduced the “problem to solution” time by maybe a week. In our particular case run so called demo days after each startup acceleration program. We rent a venue invite investors and let our entrepreneurs present in front of approximately 15 to 25 investors sometimes a little more. This year we just invited 800 investors from around the world and have already more registrations than ever before. This year, the Demo Day is digital and everybody can join it on April 8, from wherever they are. A huge advantage. Of course this is no real substitute for face to face meetings but it is a powerful option that we will consider in the future. And we also have our global 3 day WIForum Digital 2020 Conference this year in June. 3 days and we expect 2,000 people from over 40 countries. Of course it is fully digital. In countries where Corona may have been enough contained we will do – like last time – public viewings in the respective cities, have about 40 – 50 speakers, including governments, universities and many top talented innovative businesses. All digital, and on top of all, no Co² emission, no travel no energy expenditure, maximum cost reduction and more. Even after corona is contained our work life will never be like it was. We learned to become more independent and far more efficient if we put our old “protocols” aside and spend time for meetings when and wherever, get problems solved immediately and build relations that go far deeper than ever before. However what is an advantage for some will become an even bigger disadvantage for the slow and far less agile businesses.
3) Social Distancing
One of the new key words. People are isolated at home and lack of social interactions. Its a very uncomfortable situation to be alone – not only in times of an pandemic. Yet. also here we quickly learned to hang out with friends online. And not just adults but also kids – at least those who have been online before. Multi Player Games and all the other digital entertainment out there comes extremely hande when a whole family stays home. BUT not only to shut of the kids – but to to give them an opportunity to learn about social connections in the digital world. I have been working in the social media world since its inception in 2003. Today, 17 years later, I have an equal amount of friends that I never met face to face in my entire life. From some I know far more what is going on in their lives than from some of my family members. My old friend Des Walsh, who I never met in person but have been connected for 10 years now, is older than 99% of my oldest local friends who never touched Facebook. Social Distancing is a problem that we can overcome. And those who have the experience for years, learned about digital body language, read the mind of somebody not by seeing their facial expressions but writing style would certainly not suffer social distancing at all. Whether in business or in our private lives, we learned already so much about others from the daily interactions in the online world that we get a completely different perspective of the media.
4) Accelerating the innovative mind
Another aspect of life is our ability to innovate. In times of a crisis innovation pops right and left. Companies that seem to unable to innovate get all of a sudden very creative. Instead of building car parts they build facial masks to protect people because they know how to build filters. Others get great ideas to build simple but globally accessible apps showing latest discoveries about the virus and best practices to protect one another. We created an initiative “Innovate Fighting Pandemics” to inspire innovative mind, from all trades to share their ideas so that others can find solutions to problems they may have. What we all learned is that innovation is not a reserved domain for highly educated scientists but we all are innovative, as long as we give our mind the free space to think. And in times like now it is simply accelerating for survival – why not always give our mind the freedom to go crazy.
5) Business & Production Processes
Another learning we already can envision is to make our business processes and production structures far more flexible in thinking and in operation. Right now, today Mar 27, many companies ca no longer produce because people are at home for their own safety and cannot produce an automobile from their home office. But why is it that brutal? Because we think in maximum “employee utilisation”. The production runs are so hyper optimized that there is not even a “Plan B”. Instead of stopping the motion to zero, we can get a bit smarter. We can already today let 50% of the employees come back who have for sure no symptoms. Ask them to avoid mass transportation and go with individual transportation to the manufacturing plant. Likely hood that they catch a virus is low and cross contamination with those who have been healthy at home for two weeks extremely low. Two weeks later we run the second “mega-shift” and ask the other group to go back to work. Four weeks later we most likely are back to full production.Obviously it takes some major co-ordination, super machine and workplace cleaning in between shift but also during the shifts, orchestrating the right people for a half production load and so forth but that Plan B is probably with millions of dollars per day worth of business loss. Post Corona we will never go back to static operations but will want to consider more flexibility, driving more agility and giving the organization a better competitiveness.
6) Small Business Stagnation
Small businesses, shops, retailer, reseller, and so forth have been struggling to stay alive, not able competing against the big e-commerce giants. For many it will be a sad ending as they just could not decide to think about smart alternatives they can offer to their customers. The retail market has changed, consumer behavior and desires advanced, but their payer did not. At the same time many, very fortunately, finally understood what customers want and shifted towards online offerings, home delivery, better logistics, better return policies so that ended up become far more competitive and customers find better services. Some countries blocked any innovation that put their small retailers in jeopardy. In times like right now is fires back badly. They have to spend more money to support the failing businesses and have missed the development they couldn’t stop anyway. E-commerce, fast home delivery, return policies and processes have improved more and faster in the past 10 weeks than in the last five years. Countries with weird import regulations, difficult taxation and more see their self sufficiency rate go much faster down than in other countries. Again – life post corona will never go back to what it was before.
There are probably countless more examples about changes that will not go back to what it was. And we all, would love to hear from you. Share your experiences here in the comment section for others to learn from!