It might be almost impossible to envision now, but it must be said:
This too shall pass!
A certainty that history has taught us is that times of crises are inevitable. The Corona Virus outbreak is certainly the biggest world-wide crises that we will likely face in our lifetime. But, what history has also taught us is that some of the world’s best solutions and innovations have been born during times of crisis. Innovation goes hand-in-hand with hard times: desperation forces us to question the status quo. Companies (and countries) have no incentive to rock the boat during times of stability.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Plato
Humanitarian emergencies are unique in the sense that it creates an urgent and widespread need that simply cannot be met with our current infrastructure and systems. In cases like these we are forced into accelerated cycles of innovation and creative problem solving.
The Kauffman Foundation sponsored a study in 2009 that found that more than 50% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list that year were launched during a recession (including companies like GE, IBM, Disney, Microsoft and Adobe to name but a few).
Potential benefits that we could expect include:
1. Rapid problem solving and innovation
2. Increased resiliency for future challenges
3. New levels of cooperation – even among rivals
4. Systemic change (this happens much quicker in times of trial)
5. Dramatic policy shifts
6. Emergence of talent and leadership
Let’s look at a few past examples:
A massive tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan in March 2011, causing four of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant to release radiation into the atmosphere and ocean. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, German Chancellor Merkel quickly reversed her position on nuclear energy and surprisingly announced that Germany would gradually shut down all nuclear power plants by 2022. Eight of Germany’s 17 plants were closed almost immediately, and Germany launched a long-term plan to make itself independent of both nuclear energy and coal. By 2016, renewables made up almost 30 percent of Germany’s gross energy production and nuclear energy as a percentage of gross energy production dropped from about 23 percent in 2010 to 13.1 percent in 2016.
Walt Disney Studios was started in the middle of the great depression. After the initial failure of his first company, Walt Disney joined his brother Roy in Hollywood. The brothers suffered a lot of adversity during the first years of the company. Through experimentation with different characters the company had their first real success with Mickey Mouse, 5 years after starting the company. It would take another 7 years before the studio created the first full-length animated film and it was an immediate success. The company produced many films up until the point when box-office profits plummeted due to start of the Second World War. By 1942 90% of the company’s staff were working on war-related films in an effort to survive. It was not until the release of Cinderella in 1950 that the company was again able to prove that there was money to be made in animated films. With vision and passion it is possible to weather any storm it seems.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein—heavily in debt from his war with Iran—invaded neighbouring Kuwait in August 1990, claiming it as his 19th province. Recognizing this as a violation of sovereignty and a challenge to regional allies, the United States under U.N. auspices built and led an unprecedented, multi-national coalition of 32 partners —including the United Kingdom, Russia, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Syria—to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. By January 1991, the coalition had destroyed the Iraqi military, liberated Kuwait, and thwarted Saddam’s aims to bring Israel into the conflict and split the coalition. This hallmark of international cooperation (including United States and Russia) stands today as the model for successful coalition operations.
Below are some great examples of inventions that changed the world and was born in circumstances similar to what we face now:
Leo Fender started Fender Guitars after losing his job during the great depression.
The computer was developed during World War II to assist the military with calculations for ballistic research.
Isaac Newton developed the principles of Calculus at his mother’s farm after his university closed due to an outbreak of the plague.
Yellow Seed Consulting will be creating a range of posts to help leaders, organisations and employees to leverage the potential benefits coming out of this crises. May you weather the storm of this crisis with the knowledge that a few things might have changed for the better once the dust has settled.
For more information visit www.yellowseed.co.za