EDITORIAL: Businesses must adapt to new reality

IT was recently noted that as Barbados and the rest of the region continues to grapple with the rigors of the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary for business leaders to adapt and evolve their thinking if businesses are to survive and thrive beyond the current crisis.

This critical piece of advice was issued as the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) recently hosted its flagship annual digital event, under the theme, "Executive Mindset: Evolved Thinking for Business Leaders".

Meanwhile, in an article published this year entitled, "Adapt Your Business to the New Reality", authors Michael G. Jacobides and Martin Reeves point out that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted global consumption, forcing as well as permitting people to unlearn old habits and adopt new ones. They note that a study on habit formation suggests that the average time for a new habit to form is 66 days, with a minimum of 21 days and the lockdown period on account of the COVID-19 pandemic in most countries lasted long enough in many countries to significantly change habits that had been the foundation of demand and supply. The authors go on to state that companies seeking to emerge from the crisis in a stronger position, must develop a systematic understanding of changing habits and for many firms that will require a new process for detecting and assessing shifts before they become obvious to all.

Of late, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Cleviston Haynes, suggested that whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has struck at the heart of the local economy, severely disrupting it, it has also presented some opportunities and driven Barbadians out of their comfort zone. He went further by stating that, "It has exposed us to alternative ways of doing things, and made us do things and adopt behaviours that we have long talked about, but were slow to implement."

"During the lockdown, for many businesses to continue to operate, they had to attempt remote work and it worked. Now some are embracing it. People who had never used e-banking or e-commerce have become pros at both. Many businesses are paying their staff via direct debits and Government has virtually phased out the use of cheques. We are becoming more accustomed to using the technology we have at our disposal," he stressed.

However, whilst some businesses and companies have been adapting and evolving, putting what they have learnt during lockdown into practice and using it to their advantage, sadly, there are others - government ministries included - that have sought to revert to the old way of doing things. They have not yet come to the realisation that they can utilise more technology for example, and embrace the digital transformation that is coming, whether we like it or not. During the lockdown period, a number of businesses became creative in how they offered their products to customers who were at home and unable to visit stores or restaurants. With the restrictions lifted, however, some have abandoned these new and creative ways of doing business, in favour of what they had been doing all along.

Now we acknowledge the need to blend the old with the new. However, there are numerous lessons to be learnt from this present COVID-19 pandemic and one of them must be seeing the need to adapt and evolve as businesses and organisations in general and acting upon that recognition. Any recovery effort will hinge on how well we can do this.

Barbados Advocate

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