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Hard Business Lessons Learned From the COVID-19 Pandemic

For lack of a better analogy, we can look at the story of the “Three Little Pigs”. The fable may sound childish. There’s certainly something in the story that’s very appealing to children. But truth be told, it speaks of hard truths that clearly applicable in today’s times.

You can say the big, bad wolf who huffs and puffs to destroy houses is the pig’s nemesis. In actuality, he symbolizes the passing of time that tests the strength of the houses each pig built. All of which is akin to the COVID-19  pandemic challenging each and every business these days. You may not realize it. But the virus even with all the sorrow it has brought us is teaching us to build stronger businesses.

It’s true that businesses big and small have folded to the virus. From entertainment giants (movie theater chain Alamo Dafthouse) to top retailers (Dean & Deluca) have filed for bankruptcies. But there are hard lessons that the virus has imparted to us. Here are three of the biggest.

Lesson #1: Adjusting to the Speed of the Customer

Every company has flaws. That’s the reason why the six-sigma process of continuous improvement has become a great resource in times like these. It allows us to better our business processes.

But crisis magnifies flaws. As the virus changed the business landscape, businesses must learn to adapt to it. If not, any enterprise would face dire consequences. Not only did the pandemic laid bare the flaws inside a company, but it has also accelerated the creation of the damage due to these flaws. In short, it certainly has made life a lot harder for businesses to thrive.

This is where the virus separates the haves and the have-nots. Those who have built a stronger enterprise were able to cater to the need of their customers no matter the speed. Those who didn’t have what it takes were left behind.

This is nowhere as apparent as in digital transformation. Businesses that already have a digital presence raked in lots of profits when the virus came to town. Those who failed to do so were unable to service their customers when the stay-at-home orders were in full swing.

Also, the quality of the digital transformation had been tested during the pandemic. For one, the design process in building a website needs not just to cater to the aesthetics. It must, first and foremost, be competitive enough to draw in and process business.

And all that requires hard work from the top echelons of the company to the least of the workers. You might think Amazon was poised to win big time during the pandemic. But you can’t deny the fact that they also had to adjust to the speed of the customer, or go bust.

At the onset, Amazon’s leaders were harassed with more online orders than the giant company can deliver. They were bound to break their Prime member promise of a two-day delivery window. Good thing they made the right decision in the middle of it all. And reap the success they are now enjoying.

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Lesson #2: Not Having an Augmented Workforce

Everyone is talking about remote work right now. The value of being able to operate with workers working from home is now clearly set to the fore. Companies have no choice but to realize that. And there’s a good chance, remote work is here to stay even without the virus.

What many business organizations failed to realize is there’s a new kid on the block. And that’s the augmented workforce. Call it the future of work.

But what does it actually mean? Simply put, it’s working with Artificial Intelligence or AI. While Google and the rest of the gang are the pioneers of the use of “smart bots”, you could enhance your productivity too if you engage in it. A glorious example is Google itself. The search engine has been using AI to answer billions of search queries (3.5 billion searches) worldwide.

Take note that as much as 30 percent of today’s jobs can be translated directly to automation. If you want to prep yourself best for the future, making the most of the augmented workforce is wise. It can be a lifesaver. It’s estimated that by the year 2025, chatbots and other forms of virtual assistants will be a common occurrence in business.

Lesson #3: Putting the Future in a Box

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all is expecting the future to be the same. When you put the future in a box, you’re actually preparing yourself for self-destruction. You will be unable to pivot as fast as you need to pivot.

Leaders who are already taking the hard-and-fast stance that business will go back to “business as usual” are going to be utterly disappointed. It’s true the economy is opening up. Thousands of children in New York are in fact going back to in-school learning. But COVID-19 is still largely unpredictable.

Businesses, therefore, that listen to the times and adjust their strategies accordingly are better off. They are in tune with their market. And in the process, they will reap the harvest of plenty in time.