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April 24, 2020

We continue with our ‘Words of the Day After’ series with an emphasis on: Reset.

A few days before our lock down began, whilst riding the Central Line, I was looking at a map of the London underground. A 2D representation of a system with a complexity that is difficult to grasp.  Just like this map, our understanding of the world is that of a flat world that exists within other systems. In these challenging times, the best (and the worst) news has spread quickly. Murphy’s law applies, and it would seem that none of this was foreseeable, controllable, or inevitable.

Striving to operate within such a crisis forces us to face our limitations. We need more data and experience in this field to help us quantify and quantify risks and outline the various scenarios. Our current thought processes and tools no longer necessarily apply to our world today (as Stefan Zweig mentions in “The World of Yesterday”). We are making new decisions, that have different consequences. We find ourselves confined to an unprecedented reality, without a clear path forward. We are now living in a spectrum that was unimaginable just a few weeks ago:

  • Politically – because the response to the chaos and to the fear has been to engage an emergency status. Our democracies have been rattled.
  • Economically – banks and governments have committed to do whatever it takes to save businesses and jobs. Therefore the very notion of money or any form of transaction is at risk of becoming obsolete.
  • Scientifically – treatments and vaccines are being tested in record times. We’re depending on the very sharpest of our medically qualified global talent to save lives.
  • Socially – due to the lock down, we have all somewhat become close without touching; supportive without meeting. New versions of ‘normal’ are arising, and will perhaps be here to stay.
  • Ethically – the era of GDPR calls for the use of telecommunications data and contact tracing. Get ready for ‘the day after’, for when we move on.

Questioning our raison d’etre to this extent opens the way and breeds desire for something else, a #Reset.

Which system, or systems (social, political, economic, entrepreneurial, etc.), will drive or will need to be driven going forward? How could we structure this future landscape? Which pillars will we be resting upon after this crisis?

This slowdown gives us an opportunity to question ourselves.

#Reset helps us envision what the future will look like, inspires us to imagine new parameters, and brings us closer together to create more efficient systems.

What’s the scale?

Crozier and Friedberg (L’Acteur et le Système), and Giddens and his organisational system (The Constitution of Society) considered the organisation as a system in which the actors play a fundamental role (to act, not to act, etc.). Today, that depiction of a system seems narrowminded. We speak of interdependence between systems: a systemic approach.  An organisation is no longer considered as a complete entity, but a part of a new entity to come – itself interconnected with other systems. Likewise, a manager is to be considered as a of the driver of this system, and there are many other drivers besides, beneath and above them. The world is no longer flat: we all depend on each other.

What does this mean?

In the face of so much adversity, the search for meaning, beyond strategy, has become key. A business must be useful, and the result of such usefulness equates to profit.  Reverse the equation of usefulness and profit, and you lose purpose. Post-Friedmanian’s vision of the company with a purpose “aligned with the needs of the world”, according to Satya Nadella, Managing Director of Microsoft, places its activity within an ecosystem (a sector, a community, society, etc.).

This self- reflexion is necessary, but not sufficient in itself. The future will happen quickly. We should remain openminded, driven and yet humble. A system, in itself, cannot be conceived and kept behind closed doors. That’s what makes a system a system; a business.

What’s next?

Let’s look at the example of our supply chains. Intensely tested by a trade war. Traditional strategies failed. The system needs utterly redesigning, from suppliers, to sub-contractors, customers, shareholders, etc. This is where open strategy makes sense. The horizons will also change from a projection of three to five years or short to long-term vision.

“Tomorrow is less about discovery than it is about invention”

– Gaston Berger, founding father of the discipline, and it’s reassuring: we are in control! By taking a cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approach, etc., it is possible to build scenarios and use them to design a strategy.  Thanks to the creation of this open system of reflection and action, you can create, and scale, a sustainable and resilient system.

Where are our weaknesses?

In yesterday’s steadfastly world, resilience meant good risk control. This measure of uncertainty as the probability of an adverse event is based on assumptions of independence that the world as we knew it will no longer exist. We used to quantify risk and anticipate weaknesses. It’s no longer the case. More than ever, our vulnerability – in this period of crisis – digital prevails. Imagine not being able to talk to your loved ones, consult a doctor or online, work remotely, etc.

We may find ourselves otherwise exposed: our health system, our supply chains, our businesses & our social support systems, etc.

The best way to weather this crisis is to rethink our strategic approach, derive and encapsulate prospective scenarios.

Going forth?

Sustainability is a melting pot of resilience, responsibility and legacy. This stands trues particularly for an environmental, social, and ethical standpoint.

In the wake of this crisis conundrum, your clients, your staff and your stakeholders will possibly no longer forgive a lack of awareness on these matters. They ought to be at the heart of your strategy, and be purposefully and thoughtfully at the heart of your behaviour at every level – every day.

In the face of this unknown, the systems to be reinvented will have value. They apply to our new eco system.  They will be sustainable, strong and responsible; we will are building a future together.

So… let’s #Reset

This article is an English adaptation of a post initially created in French.

Read blogs from this series


Noemie Lauer
Vice President (MD), Financial Services,
Capgemini Invent