Who said economic downturn?
By Richard MartinFeatures Opinion
Unless you’ve been on Mars lately, or you’re a troglodyte, you may have noticed that the whole world has been going through a major financial crisis. People are, rightly or wrongly, worried about their livelihoods and their futures.
We’re hearing a lot of gloom and doom. This is normal in a period of
economic uncertainty, but I think we also have to keep things in
perspective. One way to do this is to focus on fundamentals and ensure
we have sound plans and flexible strategies and tactics to meet
personal, professional, social and business objectives.
When I was in the military we used to say that a plan is only good
until you cross the line of departure. That expression recognizes that
things go wrong, no matter how well they are planned. In the current
period of economic turmoil, governments, companies, organizations and
individuals will be increasingly confronted with rapid change, risks
and uncertainty. This will create havoc with preconceived notions and
rigid plans. The watchwords are therefore flexibility, leadership,
resiliency and robustness.
A natural response is to hunker down and adopt a defensive posture; to
wait for better times to come back. Instead, we need to make plans and
organize our lives so that we get beyond mere survival and thrive. We
must avoid sticking our heads in the sand and prepare for various
contingencies while staying on the lookout for opportunities and
positive changes. It can take a lot of courage and determination to do
so, but that is what good leaders do during times of turmoil and crisis.
It’s gloomy now; it may get better or worse. I don’t know and no one
else does either. But remember this: movies and radio really took off
as industries during the Great Depression. There were also major
advances in aeronautic and automotive technology. Many of the household
goods we associate with the booming 1950’s, such as washing machines
and refrigerators, were actually invented in the 20’s and 30’s and
their respective industries took off during the Great Depression. The
social and economic turmoil also led to the creation of social programs
that we now take for granted and which make the lives of millions
better every day. This was because of political leaders who were
prepared to take calculated and prudent risks. In some cases they had
to lead everyone else in taking very bold ones — people such as
No matter what, people will continue to need basic services such as
security, transportation, health care, education, and food
distribution. They will seek new forms of entertainment and recreation.
They will continue to learn and to develop as people, to read books and
to travel. Individuals and companies will also seek new forms of
security, new investments, and new challenges. Quantum computing,
communications technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence,
genomics, environmental science, to name but a few, will probably have
a massive impact on economies and societies. Businesses will be created
in the process of what Joseph Schumpeter termed the “creative
destruction” of capitalism.
Through all of this, it can be of help to focus on three basic
principles. First, we need to focus on our strengths. Second, we need
to be ready to reinforce success and to jump on opportunities because
they may appear very quickly but be somewhat ephemeral. Third, we need
to create products, services and modes of organization that are in tune
with the times. There are no easy solutions, but what choice do we have?
Richard Martin is the founder and president of Alcera Consulting Inc.
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