Business will be different, the ways in which we work will be different, but they may even be better.
Economists refer to times like we are now living through as “black swan events”, a term to describe events that are so unexpected that they change things for ever. Until the 17th Century, it was thought that all swans were white, until a black swan was discovered in Australia, changing the study of swans forever.
The sudden, unexpected Covid-19 crisis has necessitated a near-global shutdown in ordinary activity. Businesses have had to adapt quickly to survive, and those that do will thrive in the coming months, and in the changed economy thereafter. Businesses that treat this as blip before ‘business as usual’ resumes, are likely to face difficulty.
Fortunately, the evidence suggests that many, many businesses are adapting quickly. Indeed, many may actually emerge from this crisis with positive learnings to show, and with improved work efficiency. Business will be different, the ways in which we work will also be different, but they may be even better.
For example, a recent New York Times article detailed the exponential growth of the video communication platform Zoom. With the cancellation of nearly all air travel, and home isolation, businesses are rapidly shifting to fully-online platforms to continue working. This is a major shift that is unlikely to be reversed. This is going to change the way we work and communicate with each other forever.
At some point within all of our teams we’ve spoken about “remote working,” “flexibility” and how we’d like to “move in that direction” in the future. Well, nothing quite “moves us in that direction” like the rapid onset of a global pandemic, with an almost overnight “lockdown.” We may have planned to test tools like Zoom in the past, but necessity has pushed us to fast-forward these plans.
We’ve now leapt wholeheartedly into the realm of virtual meeting rooms, teams chats and even online yoga sessions. On the 23rd of March global Zoom downloads exploded to 2.14 million downloads in one day, up 2 million from just the day before. Two months prior to this, Zoom was only being downloaded about 56 000 times a day. (Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/27/tech/zoom-app-coronavirus/index.html )
In the time pre Covid-19 if you wanted to attend a meeting in another city you would have needed to use an airline. This bedrock of business travelers made airlines very valuable companies. Just months after the onset of this crisis, Zoom, a small tech company, is now worth more than four US airlines combined- Delta, United, American and Jet Blue.
What’s also interesting to note is that while there are many options in terms of online video conferencing (MS Team, Google Classroom, Skype and so on) Zoom is undoubtedly the platform that has experienced the biggest influx of new users and has far exceeded the growth of any of it’s competitors during this time.
Jason Aten of Inc.com attributes Zoom’s success to 5 simple characteristics that set them apart from their competitors. They have the same product as many others, but they’ve focused on making their product different by making it: easy, accessible, affordable, reliable and fun. Even the less tech savvy amongst us can download it and learn how to use it almost instantly. It always works, and their free offering is generous, encouraging small businesses to keep using it. (Source: https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/heres-how-zoom-became-most-important-app-in-world-its-really-quite-simple.html))
The overnight success of Zoom sets a challenge for us and for every business. How are we focusing on our customer experience now, that will set ourselves apart from our competitors?
The question remains as to whether we would have made these bold shifts in the way we as teams operate and connect with each other and our clients if we weren’t forced to? Would we truly have understood the value of virtual connections and the financial benefits of working more efficiently and shedding the time and costs of air travel? Probably not, but with all the challenges and uncertainty that Covid-19 has presented us with, there are some key lessons that we can hold onto and take with us as we prepare to rebuild a new way of work after the virus is gone.
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