Reinvention and Opportunity Post-Pandemic
May 19, 2020

Reinvention and Business Continuity in a Post-Pandemic World

by: Karen Scates

The current pandemic isn’t the first crisis we’ve faced as a country or as a planet, but it’s one of the biggest in recent times, destroying lives and businesses around the globe. While we must all continue to respond to the challenges before us, now is the time to look ahead to the future. Companies that will survive this storm are those that are able to understand risk and plan for it. Don’t wait to take stock of your current position, the changing market, and the risks and rewards you may face in the long term.

We asked experts in innovation, disaster recovery, communications, and business to help answer some critical questions on how to respond, recover, and reinvent brands on the road to recovery from Covid-19. To get more advice on what brands should focus on, and find helpful resources and blogs to help companies navigate and lead through this crisis, see our guide: “Fueling the Next Wave of Innovation: Expert advice for companies on leading through a crisis.” 

Our panel of experts includes:

  1. Dr. Kumar Mehta, innovation expert, founder of Bridges Insight, and author of The Innovation Biome
  2. Ravin Jesuthasan, futurist, author and managing director of Willis Towers Watson
  3. Chloe Demrovsky, president and CEO of disaster recovery Institute international
  4. Jason Pfeiffer, editor-in-chief, Entrepreneur Magazine and host of Pessimists Archive and Problem Solvers podcasts
  5. Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications, The Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth

Here are a few key recommendations on reinventing your brand for long-term success.

Take the time to reflect and rethink future plans

At this point in the crisis, most companies have moved past the immediate response to the pandemic and are settling into the “what now?” phase of operations.  According to the experts, companies that are cutting back on their resources and waiting for the crisis to pass are not the ones that will emerge strong enough to lead their brands into the future. It’s time to reflect, plan, and think about the future.

“I think it is a time for reflection. Some leaders have a little bit more time on their hands than they would normally in  business as usual times, and that can be a great time for reflection. I think one thing to be cautious about, however, is positioning all of your ideas within the frame of what is happening right now. This is not going to last forever. We’ve seen that after pandemics in the past that often long periods of disease and stress have led to a Renaissance afterward in human history—times of great innovation for society. So I think it’s important to also think about that long term horizon and never lose sight of that.”

Chloe Demrovsky, president and CEO of Disaster Recovery Institute International

Watch the video in its entirety here

According to Jason Pfeiffer, editor-in-chief, Entrepreneur Magazine and host of the Pessimists Archive and Problem Solvers podcasts, we need to always be planning for the future in the midst of a crisis:

“If a company can focus on only one thing right now, I think that it should be the future. I know that that sounds hokey. Big, broad, completely abstract answer. But I say it in contrast to thinking about the particular moment, solving a problem for the moment, scrambling for the moment, trying to think about how you can just get back to normal. I don’t think that we’re going to get back to normal in any satisfying way. I think that normal is going to feel different. And that means that you can’t just be thinking about how to create small bridges for now, little bandaids for now, you have to start thinking, well, what do I produce, and how will it be useful to people in the future?

Finding opportunities where none existed before

While it seems strange to say, most of our experts point to the opportunities that lie ahead as a positive result of the many changes we’ve experienced. As we continue to modify our behaviors, our needs, and even our perspectives on life, companies that are paying attention and really listening will begin to see a way forward paved with new possibilities and new ways to meet customer needs.

As all these things change, the companies that actually think about how to service this new set of needs and this new set of values, they’re the companies that are going to be the winners. They’re the companies that are going to take advantage, if you could call it that, of an opportunity. Then there’s going to be a lot of movement happening, a lot of changes that are going to be permanent. The companies that are forward thinking are going to come out as the next generation of winners more so than the companies that had strength in the past. I think that is the reason why brands need to be thinking about innovation now more. When things change they need to be prepared for change. And that’s when innovation happens.You can’t afford to be ill-prepared.”

Dr. Kumar Mehta, innovation expert, founder of Bridges Insight, and author of The Innovation Biome

To identify the business potential, it’s helpful to begin by comparing the world today to pre-pandemic times. Assuming consumers will go back to their old buying habits and that we can return to business as usual is a mistake. Instead, it’s time to educate your employees, your customers, and your prospects about how your brand has shifted to meet their current needs and the demands of the future.

“People’s attitudes have changed. People’s purchasing power has changed. People’s interests have changed, their understanding of what they need has changed. Brands need to think about reeducating consumers about who they are and maybe rebrand themselves in a way that they might not have thought of before. In the future, brands need to be more empathetic with the audience they’re communicating with than they might’ve been in the past. I think a lot of us do not realize what the toll is on everyone’s psyche as a result of what we’ve all gone through. So my hope is that there’ll be a little bit more empathy for consumers.”

Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications, The Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth

The newest renaissance is here

As we look for the silver lining in the storm, we can look to historical data to give us comfort. Throughout history, large pandemics and economic recessions or depressions have led us to greater invention and innovation. The Black Plague marked the end of an era in Europe and is credited with the beginning of the Renaissance period—a time when some of the greatest art, literature, and architecture came into existence. With history in mind, the question companies should be asking themselves right now is: How will we reinvent ourselves to emerge more enlightened and useful than we were in the past?

“One of the things that we know is a real feature of every recession is that we come out of every recession with more automation, more extensive use of technology than we did going into the recession. And by all accounts in the mother of all recessions, all of our data suggests that automation is going to play out extensively. But I do think it’s really important that we think about automation and technology in a more nuanced, thoughtful way of getting to the optimal combinations of humans and machines as opposed to mainly denominating automation as substituting a person in a job.”

Ravin Jesuthasan, futurist, author and managing director of Willis Towers Watson

Watch the video in its entirety here

In nearly every expert interview, we heard the same message of hope and resilience. That if we find ways to come together, reflect, plan, and open our minds to the opportunities, we will emerge from this crisis a little more enlightened and ready to face the next challenge that comes our way.

In the days ahead governments will be taking steps to reopen the economy. Despite the freedom to return to business-as-usual, the companies that take the time to understand the risks in a complex system will be the ones who emerge healthier, stronger, and better able to find ways to exceed customer expectations.

In some cases, rebranding and a certain amount of reinvention will be necessary to provide the kinds of products and services the new market will demand. Already, businesses small and large are changing how they communicate with the outside world and making adjustments to meet their customers where they are now.

Responding with empathy, reinventing to meet customer needs, and approaching recovery with health and safety in mind are the keys to leading your company to a better, brighter future.

To get more advice on what brands should focus on, and find helpful resources and blogs to help companies navigate and lead through this crisis, read our guide.

This is the third in a series of three blogs. To find out more great advice for successfully navigating the road to recovery, read:

Building Resilience to Lead Your Company Through Crisis and Road to Recovery: Why Innovation Matters Now Than Ever

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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