Our natural instinct as citizens of whatever country we claim is to look to our governments in times of crisis. But now, as coronavirus circles the globe, it is CEOs who’ve emerged as true leaders delivering real innovation in real time to confront the pandemic.
These leaders aren’t waiting for permission or waiting to be asked.
They’re tapping their imaginations along with their experience as inspired entrepreneurs, innovators and managers to generate bold unconventional responses.
Business Ingenuity Can Give Us Hope
We can all be buoyed by the business community’s unwavering faith in possibility.
I’m in touch with leaders every day who surprise and move me with their limitless hope. For them panic and doubt are mere distractions from the exceptional need society has for their inventiveness.
We’ve all heard terms about creativity that we can write-off as business lingo or consultant-speak. Vision statements. Disruptive technology. Design thinking. But in this moment, it’s the originality and daring behind those words that will guide us into our new future.
Business Innovation Will Help Flatten The Curve
Health professionals have told us that slowing the spread of novel coronavirus — “flattening the curve” — is the best way to support our healthcare systems to handle the onslaught of cases that will require acute medical care and the limited supply of ICU beds and ventilators. The World Health Organization has confirmed more than 208,000 cases and 8,648 coronavirus deaths since the illness emerged in December. The virus has spread to 166 countries.
Business leaders are taking this on.
Unleashing their pioneering spirit and unbidden by anything but their passionate drive to help, CEOs I’ve talked with have moved with vision, focus and speed to confront the pandemic.
- Without a single law or regulation in the offing, the CEOs of supermarkets have created special opening hours for elderly people most vulnerable to the virus so they can safely shop for their groceries.
- Companies have repurposed their entire production capacity to deliver needed products without government appropriation of industry. Luxury goods company LMVH, home of high end perfumes such as Dior and Louis Vuitton, converted their perfume factory practically overnight to produce hand sanitizer for French hospitals and public health facilities — for free.
- In the United States, commercial labs heeded the call for more coronavirus test capacity. More than 90 test developers and 40 labs have notified the FDA that they will devote their resources to coronavirus testing. In return, the FDA loosened its regulatory process — an affirmation that that the government believes it can trust the private sector to deliver a reliable product.
Business Is Also Innovating Remarkable Social Change
CEOs understand that everyday life also needs radical reinvention to fight the escalating crisis.
The “moonshot” dreams of social change that claim years – or decades – of debate in our congresses and parliaments and world bodies seem to have come to life overnight as the most forward-thinking corporate leaders embrace new ways of working.
As people work from home, eschew air travel, forego commutes and conduct meetings on Zoom and Skype, carbon emissions have dropped precipitously, proving that conducting business and curing climate change aren’t mutually exclusive.
The abstract, progressive notions of flexible hours, home working solutions and paid sick leave have become large-scale demonstration projects that prove parents can care for kids and get the job done.
Top business leaders also say they’ve dropped competition-driven decision-making in exchange for collective innovation. Reinventing on a global scale means pooling everyone’s ingenuity at the same time.
As one client wrote me, “The way we speak with competitors, clients, opponents, business partners — there is an instant equality. This affects everyone equally. Differences disappear in the face of something that threatens us all equally and that we do not control. We are all in the same boat.”
An unexpected problem must be met with unexpected efforts. Business leaders around the globe are answering this call.