Back in March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first began, we witnessed a widescale change we hadn’t seen in decades. Countless people lost friends and family, schools and universities shut down, and millions of jobs disappeared overnight as companies were forced to close or completely reinvent their business models. Months of isolation took a toll on people’s mental health. Several variants of the coronavirus have made a post-COVID world seem increasingly distant, so the future often didn’t look promising. Even during the best of times during these past two and a half years, there have been countless challenges.
Yet Oprah Winfrey once said, “challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” The pandemic hastened plenty of uncomfortable change, but it also pushed us out of our collective comfort zone. Remote and hybrid work arrangements, previously only available to a select few, were now being demoed across virtually every industry. Businesses’ digital transformation plans that were meant to be carried out over multiple years were instead crammed into a span of a few weeks.
Additionally, there was a wide range of innovations we saw in the scientific and medical communities. As scientists and medical professionals rushed to develop vaccines and other solutions to the pandemic, it highlighted the importance of global collaboration and medical innovation. For many years, we had seen trends throughout the field that discouraged this type of collaboration. Many considered the act of sharing their data a potential risk that would result in a loss of public recognition or funding. However, the past few years have shown that this type of open collaboration and rapid innovation can drive results at an unheard-of pace. Now, researchers are better positioned to develop vaccines more rapidly and respond to future epidemics and pandemics.
The pandemic has also sparked a major trend towards health and personal wellbeing that has manifested in many improvements to people’s work and personal lives. Telehealth has allowed physicians to address disparities in care by facilitating subspecialty care and increasing access to care in rural areas. New work arrangements during the pandemic have led to a wider acceptance of more flexible work schedules and better work-life balance overall. Additionally, there was a strong sense of compassion for those with a greater health risk or who had children who were virtual learning at home. It highlighted many of the hardships people had before the pandemic and drove efforts to address them. So, while not every job is likely to offer remote work arrangements when the pandemic ends, we’re all a lot more mindful of what people need to perform to the best of their abilities.
Driving growth isn’t easy, even in the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that times of disruption can catalyze innovation. Business leaders must take decisive action, expanding their core business and seeking opportunities to innovate in adjacent industry sub-sectors. Most importantly, companies need to prioritize speed over perfection. With the pace of innovation right now, businesses cannot succumb to indecision. Last but not least, even when the disruptions subside, companies shouldn’t’ lose that innovative spark. It’s easy to want to go back to “business as usual” after the last few years of constant disruption. However, those who can hang onto the pandemic era dedication to innovation in the post-pandemic future will see the greatest success long-term.