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More meaningful Actions, less Future Oracles.

For months now, we have hardly been moved by any other topic. We don’t even need to mention it by name. After a few weeks of #socialdistancing and #stayathome it already shows that this is a cut in our lives as we have never known it before. An ultimate event, which appears worldwide and causes worldwide attention.

Accept the impossibility of prognosis.

Again and again there are moments in history for which we are not prepared. These rare, highly improbable events, the “black swans” of history  cannot be predicted – even if it is a deeply human characteristic to look for simple explanations in retrospect.

Losses in gross domestic product are inevitable – almost 30% according to the OECD, other figures assume 2.8 to 25% for Germany  Not only the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve must now admit that no one knows what’s coming: “The economic outlook changes daily, and depends entirely on how the virus spreads, what measures are implemented, and how long it takes. And this is something that cannot be predicted.”

Do step by step what’s feasible and helpful.

It’s right to see the crisis as an opportunity- and it’s motivating to remember that after the great plague the Renaissance came with great innovation and progress. This event is first and foremost the return of the real, which opens up the possibility of a new, different adjustment. Sufficiency instead of uncontrolled growth, cooperation instead of competition. Even in marketing, which has often worshipped its own reflection in a fetishistic way.

Only: at the moment and for this year we are financially more fragile than ever before – and therefore rather in “survival mode”, with the perspective of permanent and rather increasing uncertainty. Only in the course of time will this uncertainty be more strongly marked by re-organization, renaissance and re-invention. A phase that will then lead to a new normality – with new rules to play by. These phases are typical in crisis management, grieving or change processes and are almost independent of theory and model. Some agencies such as BBH or Grabarz & Partner have already published presentations that inspire with scenarios and examples.

Making good decisions now.

To act in the current survival mode means of course to support liquidity with all measures. Beyond that, however, the human perspective counts, because the current uncertainty must be considered now and in the future.

  1. does it help people?
  2. does it strengthen the relationship?
  3. is it desirable and inspiring?

If we ask this in relation to customers, employees and partners, the question remains how it will reach them. This is where the crisis comes in as an accelerator of digitization – because more and more people will be turning to digital options.

Everything is a reaction to needs and behavior.

The crisis influences how we work, live, travel and communicate. And how and what we buy. In response to #stayathome we surf the internet more, watch more TV, make more phone calls, chat and stream more  But we also read more, do sports at home or go for walks. All ways to deal with growing fears, which have increased in the first weeks of the crisis – of personal-financial (+7%-points; 30% vs. 37%) or macroeconomic (+5%-points; 37% vs. 42%) consequences, but also of the fact that e.g. gastronomy and culture (+9%-points; 18% vs. 27%) are dying out.

Positive measures integrate current knowledge – and refer to ad hoc changes in behaviour and new habits. Changed entrepreneurial behaviour is thus above all a response to human needs. A market researcher told me about changing purchasing behaviour – for example, kilo packs of jelly babies are now selling, which are otherwise slow-moving items. Large, well-known brands provide orientation and security. Everything foreign and new will have a hard time at the moment. 

On the needs pyramid, the shopping hamster of the last few weeks was primarily concerned with securing the simplest physical needs. But we can see that all other levels will soon be equally present. That in the isolation interpersonal communication clearly wins. That credible news and information also create mental security, that science takes on a new significance. That people expect a changed, socially responsible behaviour from brands, especially now. About 2/3 (65%) see their purchase decisions influenced by the fact that brands now behave differently. Depending on the crisis phase, the extent of this influence varies – 88% in China, 66% in Italy, 45% in Germany. A full 90% would like enterprises to work in partnership with governments and institutions in the fight against the pandemic.

Good examples as inspiration – not as a blueprint.

People are currently looking above all for connection, productivity, opportunities to learn, to increase well-being, for diversion and entertainment and for food that fits the situation. The British cooking box supplier Mindful Chef is currently registering 2,000 new customers every day instead of 150, and not only the HelloFresh share is growing in popularity.

If we cannot leave the house, we have to create a comfortable nest. Numerous measures show how to do more than just good PR stunts.

  • Strengthening productivity and connection – with larger data gifts like those given by telecommunication providers to their customers.
  • Free information and distraction, like the free e-papers from Gruner & Jahr or countless webinars on topics such as mediation, yoga, home office hacks or programming skills.
  • Helpful services for vulnerable groups of people – such as delivery services or separate shopping hours
  • Collaborative initiatives – such as #kochenfürhelden, a grassroots initiative from German top chefs to cater for hospital workers
  • Changes in production – not only LVMH has switched from perfume to disinfectants, Bosch is developing a rapid test, Formula 1 is producing breathing aids with “project pitlane”.

Seeing today and tomorrow together.

Nevertheless, securing a company’s business base requires that we also keep an eye on the wider horizon. It’s a bit as if we have to change our focus of vision continuously – sometimes near, sometimes far. This way we can keep an eye on the time windows and phases – and take advantage of the positive motivation that emanates from them. Such “zoom in – zoom out strategy” is a quality we can now develop.

We also have to make decisions that will resolve the “growth vs. progress” paradigm. Do we stay in the old way of thinking, where much revolves around more speed and growth – or do we opt for incremental progress in a networked world, which follows other key performance indicators? A decision that involves allowing new ways of thinking, working and acting.

Making friends with uncertainty.

Instead of experiencing the singularity, the supremacy of artificial intelligence as predicted by Ray Kurzweil in the near future, there will be a high degree of parallelism in scenarios and developments for the time being. In this phase of liminality  the threshold state between old and new, a space will emerge that demands a great deal from us in its ambiguity. Old structures are disappearing and new ones are only just emerging; we must continuously rethink and adapt.

“Become comfortable with being uncomfortable” is a statement that is not only attributed to the US Navy Seals – and formulates well what counts now.

We have been living with uncertainty and ambiguity for some time now, and it is now coming to light at an accelerated pace. A kind of stress test in real conditions. Seeing this crisis as an opportunity for a major transformation rather than a “Great Depression” – which for many people will only be possible once we are no longer in the middle of it – but when we have put the first miles behind us. We can emerge stronger from this event. Economically, socially, personally – by readjusting and continuously adapting our system. As the editor of the British magazine Dazed, Jefferson Hack, put it again in an interview: “We’re all making it up as we go along”‘.


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