The COVID-19 pandemic is a classic example of a Black Swan event, something that is hard to predict, comes out of nowhere, and creates mass disruption – based on the 2007 book, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
The pandemic is disruptive, perhaps the most game-changing event since World War II because not only does it upset the economy, it endangers the health and safety of leaders, their families, and frontline teams around the world.
Although many are surprised by Black Swan events, they’re not entirely unpredictable. We know they’ll happen; we don’t know when they’ll arrive. The cruel truth is that the pandemic was predicted. But it was ignored. Experts in medicine, science, economics, philanthropy, and governments have been warning about such an event for decades. The challenge now is minimizing the global impact, economic output, and the human toll.*
The easy thing is to throw stones and ask for investigations into our state of unpreparedness. Doing so now when people are infected, businesses are closing, and hospitals are straining is counterproductive. We need an all-hands on deck approach to fighting this pandemic—medically, economically, and socially.
It is for this reason that we have created the Alliance for Corporate Resilience.
Our mission is: Navigating the Present to Invent the Future!
We represent a network of interested businesses and individuals who are in positions of authority and influence to help leaders now and further help them think through what happens next. Our charter is research, advocacy, and action.
We are engaged in exploring the depth of the immediate challenges and discovering accelerated solutions to match the expedited nature of this pandemic. We are conducting surveys with interested participants that will provide insights into the scope of the problem and the promise for the future.
We are gathering the best practices into three categories:
Before—what specifically helped those who prepared for the crisis?
During—what are creative, agile managers doing now to navigate the uncertainty? What are others struggling to accomplish due to constraints in the immediate human capital, resources, capacity, or financial means?
After—what can leaders learn from this experience, and how will they pivot for a more viable future? How will they think and lead differently?
We are taking our message to those charged with the fiduciary responsibility to serve our country and its citizens. We’re speaking to our representatives in the current administration and Congress. We are suggesting specific actions to address the pandemic issues socioeconomically. We also are offering our insights, global relationships, and assistance to help.
We are now concerned with the human equation. Our healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, technicians, aides), as well as frontline responders (police, fire, and EMS), are working long hours. They also are not immune to the coronavirus. So, what solutions can we offer to this workforce? One solution is to redeploy the workforce, very similar to when this was done back during World War II.
An estimated 20% of the U.S. workforce has already been displaced, including thousands in hospitality and travel. One idea is to put them into positions of assistance to frontline responders. Among the services would be providing support to the workers as well as their families. Support could include deliveries of food as well as services such as shopping, daycare, and support services for our country’s elderly. Thinking creatively, we could enlist the services of actors and musicians to deliver virtual entertainment for home-bound children. We could utilize shuttered hotels and docked cruise ships as temporary hospitals or quarantined locations. If necessary, we can retrain restaurant workers to support these facilities.
Make it happen now
We propose that these redeployed workers be paid by their current employers when possible. If not, provide these workers with funds from available corporate, charitable, and governmental sources. Every procurement leader must reprioritize what they buy, how quickly they can optimize their processes, and reallocate their spend categories. Similarly, product management professionals and tech leaders need to pivot toward real-time information and focus on products the market can immediately use.
We cannot emphasize enough how much speed and agility matter more than ever before.
Our expertise lies in helping women and men manage and lead more effectively. Our challenge now is to mobilize people for people. These ideas are just the beginning; the only thing limiting us now is our imagination.
* NOTE: The fascinating aspect of Black Swan Events is that they're often wrongfully if not irrationally forgotten soon after with the benefits of hindsight. And Taleb’s The Black Swan book was described by The Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II.