I’ve been mightily impressed by the way UK supermarkets have adapted to the operational challenges of COVID-19. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised: we already knew they were good at logistics. In other sectors, too, the crisis has highlighted impressive resources, some of them previously underestimated or hidden:
- Motivation. The efinancialcareers website just quoted a former investment banking Global COO saying: “Anecdotal evidence is that people work far harder at home!”
- Flatter or inverted hierarchies. The same article reported that cleaning company Cleanology is recommending expert day janitors to London banks (their job is to ensure touch points are cleaned, disinfectant dispensers are filled, and that kitchens and reception areas are clear and sanitary). I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in investment banks, but believe me, bankers didn’t used to listen to recommendations from cleaners!
- Agility. Look how quickly Scottish craft beer maker BrewDog turned to producing alcohol-based hand sanitizer and Mercedes and others developed ventilators, adroitly applying existing resources to new needs.
Crises give rise to new needs. They can also point to resources you might not have realised you had. As we’ve seen:
- reservoirs of self-starting motivation
- untapped know-how and expertise among staff whose perspectives are often overlooked
- process knowledge that can be quickly adapted to emerging needs
Doing more with resources you already have is not just a crisis management technique. Here are some pre-COVID examples:
- Distribution. Coca-Cola packed anti-malarials in the spaces between the necks of Coke bottles, harnessing their formidable network to bring vital medicines to out-of-the-way communities
- Attracting ‘aligned’ talent. Lego hired designers from among its adult user community – people who already knew how to design products customers would love.
- Leveraging internal innovation. Software house Iostudios built their own CRM because they didn’t like what was available to buy. A client saw it, asked to use it, and it’s grown into an independent business—called SalesRadar—which now counts companies such as Costco among its customers.
Doing more with existing under-appreciated resources is the key theme of my upcoming book for Pearson Business, Start With What Works. It’s an approach that worked pre-crisis, and is working now. It’s going to be all the more important as companies seek to reignite growth as we emerge. So when I’m talking to my clients, I’m suggesting they look out for any surprising evidence of untapped resources. We’re then thinking about how those resources could address a myriad new needs, showing the way to thrive in a new world.
© Andrew Bass 2020.