In this article, Jasmine Martirossian VP of Marketing at TÜV SÜD Americas shares with us three critical questions that will help us navigate to success Post-COVID-19.

As of writing this, the entire world has been living in “interesting times.” The Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times” is known to be both a blessing and a curse.

With the pandemic of COVID-19, the entire world is gripped in the clutches of uncertainty, grief with mounting losses of human lives, unemployment filings nearing Great Depression levels, shrinking GDP, economic uncertainty, interruption of traditional schooling, as well as childcare arrangements. At the same time, we have millions of people who have banded together and faced the challenges head-on, finding effective ways to work from home. The adoption of videoconferencing technology alone has advanced in a couple of months more than over the past couple of decades. People have found meaningful ways to connect with one another, and genuinely care, showing their own vulnerabilities and humanity.

When we look to science, history, and pandemics of the past, there is every reason to be optimistic. We know that with focus and discipline, and with breakthroughs in vaccine development this pandemic too shall pass. However, it will also leave a huge imprint on how we conduct business, and on how we live our daily lives.

No previous pandemic of such a global scale has occurred with the presence of the technological advances that we presently have. In fact, this pandemic will drive further advances in technology and behavioral changes, from how meetings are conducted, how office spaces are configured, how much work is done from home, how people shop and what types of expenses are prioritized.

The scale of this pandemic is so great that I am confident to venture that in a couple of decades looking back, this COVID-19 era will be viewed as the largest change management initiative that was served upon humanity. Every adversity is also an opportunity to innovate, a chance for pivoting, finding new approaches, developing new perspectives, and evolving in ways previously not considered (a great example of a successful pivot and reimagining itself is Sony Corporation, which is known today as an electronics powerhouse, yet it started in post-war Japan in 1946 as a manufacturer of green bean soup, moved onto making heated blankets, and then found its strength in electronics).

So, people and organizations – let’s face it, organizations are made up of people, and the decisions people make determine the outcomes for the organizations – that expect they would be going back to the previous “normal” are highly misguided in their expectations.

The same goes for marketing. The marketing teams that have simply continued with their messaging, must have already missed the point. When the environment shifts, we must shift with it. The true visionaries, though, look to how to define those market shifts themselves and get ahead of the upcoming shifts. • An easy example is the creation of an iPod and iPhone – these were not products that any market research study would have indicated that people needed. Yet Apple, with leadership from Steve Jobs, engineered that market shift. And, lest we forget, Apple is first and foremost a marketing engine defining tastes and setting standards.

To thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, companies, no matter how successful they have been pre-pandemic, and even if they are successful now, they must look inwardly and conduct soul-searching on a grand level to ask themselves if they are on a path to long-term success. As part of this deep soul-searching, organizations must ask if they are challenging themselves enough to meet their customers’ needs not just today, but tomorrow. One thing is guaranteed, no matter the industry, our customers’ worldviews are going to change … massively.

This soul-searching applies equally to all parts of the business, be it operations or marketing, human resources, or sales. Innovation is the name of the game. And people should not think of innovation as this gigantic top-down initiative, or a thunderbolt of lightning that will strike to bring inspiration, but rather as a methodical application of driving continuous improvements iteratively and incrementally. In fact, this calls for living the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen to drive continuous improvements day in and day out.

To be successful in driving requisite improvements continuously and to evolve in the right direction, every person should ask themselves these three questions. And then pause, think deeply, and endeavor to respond to these questions honestly.

  1. Am I beholden to the tyranny of “or” – this is usually a falsely held dichotomy that, nonetheless, limits people’s thinking.
    • Of late, we have seen many such examples in the media positing “health vs. wealth” arguments about reopening the economy. Needless to say, there can be no wealth without health.
    • One of the traditional “tyranny of or” propositions is when professional women are made to feel guilty about their careers with unfounded arguments that one can only be a good mother or a good executive – an utterly misguided and false dichotomy.
  2. Ask the question of “Why” – as in “Why are we really doing this?” Doing something only because “this is what we have always done” is woefully hurtful in life and business.
  3. Ask the question of “Why not” – as in “Why are we not trying to do this or something different? What fears are we really harboring? And what is holding us back from trying? What other alternatives could we consider?”

With the discipline of asking these questions and truthfully looking inward for answers, as well as socializing the behavior of asking these questions, every organization will be on a more assured path to long-term success. Conversely, when people stop asking these questions of themselves personally and professionally in their roles within their organizations, they are on an assured path to becoming stale, stagnant, and, ultimately, extinct.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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