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Innovating for Impact – Lessons From The Pandemic and the Future Of Work

Based on Winston Churchill’s comment of “ Not letting a crises go to waste “ or in a positive context “ Learn from disruption “, the pandemic is an opportunity to learn how to thrive in an environment that is now different – with new thinking, values and ways of doing things. Further, the experiences from COVID-19 reinforce the need to build on human capabilities and insights, as well as being better at adapting and utilizing technology, to create new connections, digital capabilities, and opportunities – to meaningfully improve outcomes for the organization and those who contributed to making it happen.



The important lessons learned from the COVID-19 disruption are –

1. The high importance of adapting and realizing human potential

Organizations have tended to think about what people can do in terms of functions, skills and responsibilities. However, because of the pandemic we have seen what people are capable of and what our limits are when they’re tested and pushed to the limit. 2020 has been a defining test – for organizations and people. We’ve learned to operate differently. We can adapt and perform in new ways and beyond historical norms.

To build on this, we must now challenge how we think about people, technology and work to identify opportunities and unleash human potential within the organization and ecosystems we are part of. This includes creating the magic that comes from empowering people to break through hierarchy and bureaucracy, lead at all levels, and doing what it takes to achieve results.

2. Leadership is different now

For years it’s been about the “ tone at the top ” and the importance of top-down leadership. Because of COVID, there are new examples of what modern leadership looks like with CEOs being more transparent and human than they’ve ever been before. This includes opening dialogues on tough issues like health, changing habits, inclusion, racism, etc. and having them front and center on the agenda, and leaning into issues that go past traditional C – Suite involvement.

In addition, new Leaders recognize the need to extend the “ Process and Predictability “ mindset with “ Insight and Inspiration “ to better connect with people, encourage sharing experiences, and becoming more innovative by developing a more entrepreneurial culture.

Senior leaders now have the opportunity to embody the organization’s purpose—its set of values supporting economic, environmental, social, sustainability, health, human interests, etc. This is critical for the many people who work remotely to have a connection to the organization as well as others in the company and their network to infuse meaning into work and create a feel good experience that unites people around common goals.

3. Having a culture about connection and empowerment

As people work remotely at home, team leaders became the organization’s lifeline. It’s now their responsibility to not only focus on outcomes and organize work, but also think about creating experiences and moments that matter to people and demonstrate company culture with shared experiences and values that build commitment and trust – within the organization and the ecosystem. To build on this to be accomplished at getting results and identifying new areas of opportunity, this includes having empathy, good listening skills, empowering people and the team, being a great communicator, high competencies in managing people and leading the organization, etc.

Going forward, having an enlightened and progressive culture requires leaders and teams at all levels develop capabilities that enable people to work and lead effectively to achieve organizational and personal goals – while supporting the human needs, better positioning the organization for success, and providing rewards for all stakeholders.

4. The changing nature of work

Work is more than simply the output it produces. It’s an opportunity for people to connect and have a purpose, feel motivated, build relationships, and showcase their capabilities. Yet no one is responsible for making this happen in driving work transformation, innovating for impact, better managing change and risk, creating new value, developing thought leadership, etc.

Organizations now have the opportunity to re-architect work for the future, not as a mechanized process, but as a flow that aligns with the ways people think and engage. And because of COVID-19, it’s a great time to effect change to benefit from disruption with a new mindset and openness to have more options to move forward – for individuals as well as the organization.

5. Ecosystems are essential to extending organizational capabilities

The enormity of challenges from the pandemic proved the value of being able to leverage internal resources with external partners having different and complimenting competencies – to accomplish what the organization couldn’t do on its own, or the project unknows made for unacceptable risk. For example, a transportation industry CEO indicated that since the company didn’t having a Chief Medical Officer they collaborated with a top medical center for health guidance and policy.

This is a good example of the increasing need for organizations to form partnerships and create ecosystems with companies and individuals having different domain expertise and competencies to have more options to – increase relevance and revenue, set objectives, create strategies and achieve goals.

Summary – Benefit from Change by Building on Learnings

To assess the potential for your organization to benefit from change and the lessons learned from disruption –

1.  What does the organization need to do in 3, 5, 10 years to – meaningfully improve outcomes by delivering new value, attract and retain top talent, make the world a better place, etc. ?

2.  How is the organization going to Innovate for Impact – to grow at a much higher rate than currently, create important new opportunities, successfully expand current markets and enter new markets ?

3.  How do you as an individual want to be positioned in 3, 5, 10 years by contributing to – organization success ? – achieving personal goals ? – expanding your opportunities ?

With disruption from the pandemic being a once in a lifetime opportunity to update the thinking and change habits, what you do about it now will have a huge bearing on where you will be in 3, 5 or 10 years

… either better off, or worse off. What will it be ?


Nov 27, 2020             CAIL / Deloitte       Innovation Commentary