How do businesses not simply survive, but thrive in this new reality?

Oftentimes, innovative ideas are a result of being put against difficult challenges. In 1665, Issac Newton was forced to work from home due to the plague. It was during this time of reduced distractions that ultimately led him to write papers which would later become the basis for calculus, and the formation of his theories about optics and gravity - yes, the famous apple story occurred while he too, was practicing social distancing. When Cambridge reopened, Newton returned with his papers in hand, and “[w]ithin six months, he was made a fellow; two years later, a professor.” What this lesson teaches us is that this time is what we make of it. Here are three trends we believe businesses should engage in to thrive:

Embracing new needs and markets. One trend we have seen with some businesses is early adaptation to the changing needs of customers. For example, as gyms and specialized fitness businesses must close their physical locations, many are taking on the new challenge of getting people fit, from the comfort of their homes. Some have taken to online streaming platforms to provide classes, with a subscription based model to bring income during this difficult time. Other businesses, like bakeries or cafes, have opted to do curbside pick ups or deliveries, allowing for customers to order their favorite items right to their home. Some restaurants, while they have shut their doors to diners, have continued to keep their kitchens opened for delivery service. Businesses need to consider how the situation changes the consumers demands, and how they can fill the needs of this new market. As the situation develops, there’s no clear prediction of when physical distancing will come to an end. Therefore, businesses will have to plan for a long-term horizon as well as a short-term pivot.

Adopting technology with openness. Another trend we have seen is that although video conferencing and information sharing platforms have been around a while, organizations have been slow to adopt these as there was no real pressure to do so. For example, while technology has been available for online lectures and classes, universities and schools have only adopted these rapidly over the past week to ensure courses are still running. Doctors and medical care have also started to move to phone consultations or online. While there are undoubtedly issues that need to be worked through during the initial stages, by being open to adopting new processes and platforms, we can innovate, grow and create a new normal.

Revisit purpose and value creation. Finally, we have seen a few businesses take this time to reflect and regroup on what their purpose is, and how they can embody those in their actions to help generate value. Were there things that were put on the back burner that could help increase efficiency, but there was just no time to get to? Or, was development of new products or services in the pipeline, but there were other projects in the way? Companies should take this time as an opportunity to refocus on developing skills that can help kick off new initiatives.

It's no question that the challenges businesses face in this new reality are difficult. However, if we can take on the perspective that this is an unusual opportunity to expedite learning and embrace new needs and markets, businesses can not only weather the storm, but come out the other side stronger and wiser than before.

This work has been funded by Viewpoint Foundation.