Once a remarkable person said, ‘Opportunity often comes disguised in form of Misfortune or even Temporary defeat’. While I completely endorse the idea from my own personal experience. I see this more than fitting in the current scenario where world is battling with excruciating pain of the tiniest living organism. It has put the entire globe on lock downs, house arrest and emergencies.
The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of dark sides. Around the world, people get ill and die, schools close, the healthcare system is overloaded, stock markets collapse. And in due course of time, employees lose their jobs, companies face bankruptcy, and countries spend billions on bailouts and medical aid. And for everyone, whether directly hurt or not, Covid-19 is a huge stressor shaking up our psyche, triggering our fears and uncertainties.
No matter how serious and sad all of this is, there are upsides as well. Hence, one should just not see the downsides but all the numerous opportunities this crisis could offer to all of us. With opportunities I don’t mean that the crisis provides extra business for companies like Zoom and Go to Webinar that enable virtual meetings, or for Amazon, which is planning to hire another 100,000 employees. With opportunities I mean general opportunities that are available for most people affected by the crisis. The opportunities which can be life altering on the way we work. way we interact and even the way we want to consume.
As I can see it, CoVID19 is challenging but it does give following opportunities for us to mull over while we are all in lock downs, working from homes, and saving hours of transits and commutes.
Opportunity 1: We have got the gift of “Time”
Time always have been a sparse commodity, especially in these times of cut-throat competition, hyper-connected economy and increased globalisation. There major save of time is happening due to expanded work-from-home policies across organisations. Like for example, many of my friends who were living in cities like Mumbai or Bangalore took almost 1.5hrs to reach office one-way. They are now able to save that time to fruitfully use for their families, work or even hobbies. There has been almost 12.5% increase in disposable time for people who are not commuting to work and still working from homes. I think there is definite use-case for driving efficiencies in work place. So, once the crisis dies down, one may want to consider if teams and associates work from home more often.
The opportunity is that we can spend this time on other things—or even better, on nothing and enjoy the free time. Instead of enjoying the extra free time, they fill it immediately with other activities. To seize this first opportunity though, re-arranging how you spend your time and reserving time for nothingness is key. Not just during the crisis, but also after it.
Opportunity 2: Finally, got some time to “Reflect” and “Reconsider”
The fact that the coronavirus disrupts our day-to-day lives provides an opportunity to reflect on things and to reconsider what we do, how we do it and why we do it. Things we took for granted—like going to the gym—are suddenly not possible anymore. Furthermore, many people have had to change their mode of working and work from home instead of at the office. This means that a lot of our routines are interrupted.
This offers a great opportunity to rethink our habits and routines and make changes. Now that you haven’t been able to go to the restaurant twice a week, hang out with your friends or go to a party every weekend, you can reflect on whether you really want to continue doing so after the crisis.
The virus forces you to make changes to your daily life routine and outlook that you might want to keep also after the crisis.
Opportunity 3: Necessity is mother of Sustainable Innovation
Many organizations suffer from slow procedures, complex bureaucracies and rigid hierarchies making organizational life less than pleasant. The coronavirus has forced many of them to break through these rigid systems and act instantly. Suddenly procedures can be skipped or accelerated, and decisions can be made more autonomously. And suddenly employees can work from home without direct supervision. This is making leadership think, did we need so many procedures and processes in first place. Can’t they be leaner and more agile organisations. So, discussions have started, join in to a fresh outlook to the world.
In past as well, as soon as there is a strong enough stimulus, things can change. This leads to remarkable innovations. Retail and FMCG is moving into delivery mode partnering with FoodPanda and Zomatos of the world to deliver stuff at your home. And schools suddenly do much of the teaching and even some of the testing online. This brings the opportunity to create innovations now that can be maintained after the crisis. And it also can help to keep the current speed and innovation mode afterwards.
These will lead to unaccounted saves in cost, protection to environment and even ease of life.
Opportunity 4: CoVID could be “The end of Individualistic Society”
Challenging times offer a great opportunity for social bonding and other ways of connecting to and helping people. Of course, not being able to visit friends or family has increased isolation and feelings of loneliness in some cases. But the feeling of “we’re in this together” has also triggered interesting ways of connecting.
In the individualized societies many of us live in, this provides opportunities to reconnect and create more social coherence. Not only during the crisis, but also afterwards. What I liked about my society was that people were helping each other to remain sane and develop sense of togetherness. Many of my friends have met their neighbours for the first time. As the folklore says, bonds forged in crisis are the strongest. Hence, I am hoping, the bonds with family and neighbours forged in this crisis which were long forgotten earlier will be reinstated and renewed for life.
Opportunity 5: Cleaner environment
The virus caused a shutdown or dramatic decrease of industrial activities. Factories are closed or operating far below their capacity, road traffic has reduced radically, and air traffic collapsed, and the lack of tourism has emptied the streets in overcrowded cities like Venice, Amsterdam and New York. While this may be bad news for most people and especially those working in the affected industries, this is also good news for our planet. CoVID19 causes a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses and other air, water and land polluting outputs.
The fact is that the shutdown and lockdown of large parts of our economy is good for nature—at least on the short term. The opportunity this provides, is to keep parts of this in place also after the crisis to make long-term improvements. Along the line of the previous opportunities, the current crisis provides us an opportunity to reconsider our lives and reorganize it in a way that has less impact on our planet.
In conclusion, the virus pandemic has shown that, no matter how well-planned and organized we are and no matter how much we live in the Anthropocene (the era characterized by significant human impact) we are not in control. This offers a great opportunity for humans to wake up to the fact that we all live in the illusion that full control is possible. It provides an opportunity to take a more modest role and accept that many things are simply beyond our control.