Preparing for the unknown
The classic book by Dr. Spencer Johnson is a go-to for transitions of all types. Covid-19 represents one of the most notable changes on a global scale in at least 100 years. It has put life on hold for some and accelerated it for others. Regardless of the effects of the current situation on a personal and business level, the fact is that someone has moved the cheese (or is moving the cheese) and it’s time to put on the running shoes to find it again. In times of change it’s always wise to review the basics and remember that change represents countless opportunities. In this piece, I’ll discuss some warnings and suggestions to better prepare for whatever lies ahead.
As in the classic story, the funny thing about change is that some people see it coming. They see all the signs and begin to take early measures to palliate its effects. Others, on the other extreme, don’t even realize it’s happened after the fact. It can happen to lay persons, leaders, industry experts, all can be found anywhere on that continuum. Unfortunately, Covid-19 is not old news yet. The pandemic came as more or less unexpected, but the challenges that it will bring can be seen from a distance. Moreover, the real financial and economic effects of it are still in hibernation. Analysts (WB, UN, OECD…) agree on the shock and strain that this will put on the global economy, including globalization, trade and production models being called into question. Some models predict as much as $76B in GDP loss in the best case scenario. It’s true that Covid-19 has accelerated some conversations, processes and evaluations that would have been put off a bit longer, but in reality, many of these events were well underway. Industry experts in economics and finance had been adverting to bumps ahead since early 2019 and prior.
Now we are talking about Covid-19 but change is continuous, so the principles of change management are in fact timeless.
Change is a marvelous gift, regardless of what it brings because the effect of a set of circumstances is really dictated by a person’s attitude. The most challenging and tragic conditions can become the impetus of transformation for an individual or industry. However, change can be unsettling and disorienting thus it’s crucial to be aware of pitfalls that lurk in all changes.
These can be as ordinary and seemingly innocent as the go-to news coverage or newspaper of choice. Or as elaborate as a well thought out conspiracy theory.
These can be as ordinary and seemingly innocent as the go-to news coverage or newspaper of choice. Or as elaborate as a well thought out conspiracy theory. Each is effective because there are ounces of truth in all of them. In times of crisis, already alarming and sensationalist information becomes more so. Additionally, with the constant bombardment of information and stimulus it becomes increasingly difficult to remain balanced, open and objective in the face of it all. Anything that is heard long enough will begin to feel as fact. Thus, the importance of remaining curious, critical and objective cannot be overstated. This is a good rule of thumb regardless of the source of the information.
Silos and isolation are very common in professional sectors as people tend to dive deeper into their area of expertise while ignoring other sources of information. The theory of everything is not only valid for physics but also for life. This isn’t to say that specialization has no value, but rather to bring awareness to possible silos that can stifle growth and innovation.
The best ideas and solutions are not always were one would expect them to be. Thinking in “holistic” terms is not common in business, but the reality is that life is intertwined, intersectional and interconnected, so silos interfere in the collection of more data to consider all the points of view and forces at play in an outcome. As circumstances change, defense mechanisms tend to go on high alert, which can trigger a search for refuge in known beliefs, circles, sources, etc. There are countless examples of this in business, politics and life in general. To remedy this “defense mechanism” is to take note of it and consider what other aspects are at play in a situation. All circumstances affect the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual planes although the definition of each of these is open to interpretation. SWOT analyses are useful for more macro considerations and to take it a step further PESTLE can initiative thoughtful conversations.
These pitfalls are not unique to regions of the world, personality types, IQ etc. but rather intrinsic to the human experience unless there’s a conscious effort to educate out of them.
Change is constant. The intensity and duration of the change can vary based on internal and external factors. Nevertheless, the following list highlights aspects that are managed entirely by the individual and help counter the effects of the pitfalls. It’s time to put on the running shoes.
Keys to managing the unknown
This list is not all encompassing yet it covers key principles that if applied can prove to be powerful allies in managing change.
State of mind
The state of mind is perhaps the single most important factor that any motivational speaker, self-help book and psychologist will try to drive home to a person. Thoughts shape reality. Considering the complexity of the world, the countless discourses available, and access to varied life experiences, it’s easy to fall into a tailspin of gloom. This by no means is a suggestion to ignore problems. However, contrary to popular practices, it is more efficient, faster and pleasant to think on the future desired state and the steps necessary to get there, versus endless elucubration on the current situation whatever that maybe. The time spent thinking over the problem and its causes generally retract energy and impetus from implementation. It may seem trivial, but the change in the state of mind engages the creative and imaginative areas of the brain, promoting positive emotion that will thrust to its attainment faster. As thoughts shape reality, a positive state of mind yields overall better and longer lasting results.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly outlines that there are elements that precede others based on indispensability. For a business owner it’s more important to weather the changing market trends by ensuring enough liquidity to afront the needs in the short to mid-term more than launching a new business line, for example. Planning for the basics is something that the global lockdown brought to the forefront. Countless industries found themselves without sufficient capital to meet short term needs. It’s still unknown if another lockdown will be necessary; the reality is that there is more unknown than known right now. The recuperation cycle for different sectors will not only depend on local markets, but global supply and demand. With all that in mind, something as basic as paying employees’ salaries and vendors doesn’t seem so simple. Similar problems occur with increased demand as there may not be sufficient liquidity to adequately increase output.
On the personal front, the same applies. If all the assets are in stocks or real estate and school fess need to be paid, or the private tutor since schools don’t open to full capacity, the shares just won’t do. These examples might seem silly or extreme, but no one would have thought that the global economy could shut down for a month, much less three. Thus, having sufficient liquidity to meet business and personal needs, should be at the top of the list.
For those that have that basic liquidity on hand, any additional capital that can be obtained will help to boost the economy as it will facilitate investments in new lines of business and services, potentially creating a bellwether in the market leveraging the advantages of timing.
For companies and individuals with publicly traded shares there are advantageous ways (leveraged equity loans, stock loans) to gain liquidity that are worth exploring. Since there are clearly signs ahead, having the basics covered now is not only appropriate but wise.
An excellent trick to remain flexible is to practice curiosity. Curiosity enables the continuous asking of questions and less frequent marriage with ideas because discovering is more enriching. All of this allows for a nimbler outlook on life and mindset, which for change there is simply nothing better. Practicing flexibility helps improve listening skills, learning and provokes asking better questions. Also, people who are flexible are more confident during change as they know they will adapt and learn from the new.
The vehicle in this life is the body. For optimal change management the body should be in top condition. One doesn’t need to train for triathlons, but energy must be invested in holistic wellbeing that includes caring for the body with exercise, appropriate nutrition (different bodies different needs), sleep and yes, sex too. If the body is short on basic nutrients overall performance is not at its prime. This affects reasoning, emotional resilience, immune system, decision making, just to name a few (for more read these authors Dr. Amen, Dr. Alonso…). In other for a business to thrive, its leadership and members must prioritize their wellbeing. It’s easy to take the body for granted as something that just works with little to no maintenance. Such line of thought seems imprudent considering that the one element that will enable the enjoyment of future success or thwart it, is the body, hence investing in its performance will increase overall quality of life. There has been a lot of talk of vaccines and the like in recent months, but little on prevention and increasing immunity. Laughter and exercise are marvelous ways to increase the body’s immune system and overall performance.
As with the story, there is an abundance of cheese, it just requires some sniffing to find it. This is a good reminder for business and industry leaders that the changes ahead represent a full 180. The idea that the only way to succeed is through cutthroat praxis and eliminating competitors is not only toxic for the psyche, but simply not true. There are countless meaningful contributions, solutions to be created and profit to be made for all and then some, while increasing the quality of life of all human beings and protecting the planet. Changing the mentality from lack to abundance allows the neurons to fire thinking of possibilities rather than exclusion, for whatever lies ahead that’s certainly a better place to be.
Change is constant.
How dull would life be if everything was always the same?
Thankfully change comes to the rescue to provide opportunities to grow, learn and adapt. To gain all the benefits that it offers, it’s important to consider the state of mind (where is the attention), taking care of the basics (cash is still king!), flexibility (asking more questions), caring for the vehicle (the body should be in optimal condition) and finding new cheese (there is abundance). Thoughts create reality.