We live in 'interesting' times where technological advances, science, medicine, communications, even the Internet can be so far advanced, yet we have no good answer for the latest global bio threat... Covid19; yet. In this age, we can be beat down by the daily news of Covid19 hard facts, hyperbole, and fear. Or we can look at the situation plainly, accept that the current situation is most grave and awful, and choose to do something about it.
I want to be counted in these times as one who lifted the human spirit, encouraged the downtrodden, and who focused on raising the sights and hopes of all to see a brighter picture than we might presently see. For we are all in this together, however some of us are 'in the gutter, and others of us are looking at the stars', as Oscar Wilde put it. Charlie Chaplin said, "You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down." So where are you looking right now? What is your trajectory? Mood? Spirit? Temperature? and Tempo? Are you hopeful or downtrodden?
Unfortunately many people today are discouraged, fearful, and focused on their own immediate challenges (health and economic); these challenges are indeed great and I mean no disrespect for so many who suffer at this time. However some stand today proverbially frozen as if in catatonic depressive state and this need not be so. There is room and good reason for positive-thinking and hopefulness at this time, and likely laughter, and exercise, being positive is itself good medicine.
I am personally highly optimistic that in the coming months (not years) we will see great advances in medicine and technological discoveries, including new methods of doing business that will resolve many of our present cares. Why? Because "necessity is the mother of invention;" and great peril creates the focus and drive for even greater inventions.
Think of it, faced with great peril in the UK, in just 10 days, Dyson the vacuum cleaner inventor and his crack engineers and fabricators created a functional two patient ventilator, with Dyson class and style; and the UK government said they would purchase 10,000 of them. In similar light speed Abbott Labs developed a test for Covid19 that can detect presence of the virus in 5 minutes, and can confirm no virus presence in 13 minutes; that is a total game changer!
With such speed of infection detection our options for intervention are greater, and when speedy testing is ramped up in capacity it will allow commerce to continue more freely. Imagine that all could go to work safely, take a Covid19 screening, and in minutes be declared clean and work with others for the week; then repeat again the process the next week. Those that test positive for virus would go home for two weeks and recover, and then rejoin the workforce. This capacity was not available even 30 days ago. And these are but a few of the inventions that necessity has encouraged.
Think further of how many teams of scientists and medical researchers are working on vaccines to mitigate the Covid19 symptoms and stop the virus pandemic. Promising approaches such as using blood antibodies from confirmed Covid19 recovered patients... is intriguing if it works, with a growing base of antibodies for each new patient that recovers. Now I'm not a scientist, so I'll wisely leave the medical discovery and remedies to the experts. However we will see vast innovation and discoveries that speed progress of research and remedies forward faster than most think possible.
However I am a business scientist, an economist and executive coach, and I can tell you many things about what business leaders can and should be doing at this time. Our time is not unique. There have been plagues, wars, earthquakes, floods, and pestilence of many kinds, and each time they human spirit was challenged as we were made weak by these crisis. If we have learned anything from past crisis is that we frequently dwell to much on what we see presently, exaggerating the condition, and if only we could see beyond our peril to the next week, next month, next invention, we would seek the light coming out from behind the clouds.
Let me share with you now some timely quotes from philosophers, kings, leaders, and the quoted from years gone by, who have all witnessed peril in their own times... and survived.
Speaking of invention, Plato wrote first, "The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention." In our modern era, David Rockefeller quipped, "If necessity is the mother of invention, discontent is the father of progress." Whether by necessity, discontent, or other impetus, focus on a creative solutions to a problem often create the energy needed to solve the problem.
As an executive coach, I am mindful that when in crises, the business leader's job is not just to lead the numbers, but also lead to the people to hope, creativity, curiosity, and invention. Samuel Johnson the moral philosopher wrote, "Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness, of captivity, would, without this comfort, be unsupportable." In our day, Peter Drucker wrote, “Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.” Think of it as putting on your own oxygen mask first, and then helping others around you. Beyond just getting by in these times, we need to encourage creativity, being agile, and adapting to our circumstances so that in some small way we exercise power over the very forces that seem to want to crush our spirits. Charles Darwin gave voice to this idea when he wrote, “It's neither the most intellectual of the species that survives; nor the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” For eight years I was a Vistage Chair (2010-2018) and I had the opportunity to work with many businesses. One of my peers during that time was an old sage named Pat Murray who was reported to say, “Great leaders seem to gain ground in conundrums others find impossible.” We could add the sage words of Thomas Edison to this thread, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” I conclude with a profound thought from one of the great moral philosophers and psychologists of our time, Victor Frankl. Having gone through the Holocaust concentration camps, and having witnessed so much abuse, he found a way to get through it, by being positive, laughing, pondering, and determining he wanted to be. Frankl wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” I challenge you to find meaning and purpose, and don't let this crisis go to waste until you have learned all you can from it. I myself have been challenged by many trials, and most frequently it was in the midst of the trials that I contemplated thoughts, innovations, and ideas that would have seen no daylight without the dire need that brought those green shoots to the surface. Lastly, this morning I spent time in a Virtual Zoom peer executive meeting with a group in California that is impacted severely by the Covid19 pandemic, just as many others are in the USA and around the globe. My goal in speaking with them was to lift, inspire, encourage, and raise their sights to the possibility of 'what if' there was a better day, a better way, and a better process for change. Following the presentation the attitudes of the members of the group were noticeably elevated, and now they too could see things differently. In the words of Frankl, I encouraged them to understand that “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” It was a wonderful morning and I was so excited to be with them, and I wish them every success and happiness.
If your company, executive team, or executive peer group would like to huddle for an hour or two, and explore the possibilities of 'what if' there were a better way... or explore how to improve your company morale and vision... or how to lift up the spirits and hope of your team... please feel free to call on me. I would be happy to work with your group as time and resources are available.
Remember in the words of General Colin Powell, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” Be that force for good in your own life, for your family, your business, and your community.