Pandemic paradox


The coronavirus pandemic has created an interesting paradox. The lockdown has given numerous directors and managers a broader perspective on their companies and the world in general. In between the countless digital meetings in Zoom or Microsoft Teams, many CEOs take a walk around their garden or local neighbourhood: an ideal moment for reflection and contemplation. The lockdown has also given people the chance to rediscover old hobbies or start new ones. For example, over the past few weeks I’ve taken up drawing and watercolour painting in our garden shed.

In many cases, CEOs have also increased the frequency of internal ‘town hall meetings’ with employees, from once a month to at least once a week. Managers have much more contact with suppliers and customers than before the crisis, plus they no longer waste a huge amount of time travelling. Meanwhile, participants in digital meetings get to the point faster, resulting in quicker decision-making.

The coronavirus crisis has also stimulated companies’ creativity. One supply chain director of a US manufacturer of medical equipment I spoke to by phone recently is eager to find ways for his company to retain its current agility and speed of delivery after the crisis. This kind of business creativity is primarily focused on short-term operational execution.

Pandemic accelerator for digitalization

But companies really need to start taking a longer-term view again. In a quick survey of Dutch supply chain directors, we discovered that COVID-19 is clearly accelerating the digitalization process that was already underway. I recently received an email from a supply chain director asking about innovative software vendors to help improve communication with suppliers, which is just one concrete strategic example.

The big problem is that to find real innovations, you need to look for new, unexpected combinations – such as at inspirational networking sessions. Needless to say, such gatherings – like our own inNOWvate Supply Chain Event – cannot and may not be held during a lockdown. So the pandemic forces us to focus on innovation, but inhibits it at the same time: another pandemic paradox.

Martijn Lofvers, Chief Trendwatcher Supply Chain Media