New normal needs new thinking approach

This is going to be the year of survival. The year is going to test your skills to live, to fight and to survive whether you are a human or a business.

A lot has been debated on how the MSME businesses have suffered during the pandemic. The ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ scheme also aimed at ensuring that the businesses remain afloat during these critical times. But I have been an entrepreneur and realize that the success and failure of a startup are based on the personal initiative of its leader.

 I firmly believe that 2020 is the year of survival. The year is going to test your skills to live, to fight, and to survive whether you are a human or a business. Few businesses, however, will thrive, depending on how soon can their leaders re-strategize, re-align or re-structure the change.

New Normal is here to stay and will need a new approach to thinking. Albert Einstein had once said, logic takes you from A to B, it’s imagination that takes you everywhere. These times are the “wickedest” of times, its complex, tricky, and unprecedented.

Unfortunately from times immemorial it has been established that creativity is the domain of the gifted. Though my belief structure has been that lateral thinking and creativity can be learned with the implementation of a framework of mindset, process, and orientation.

 Breakthroughs in neuro and cognitive science have proven that both sides of the brain are involved in logical and creative processes. Entrepreneurs are more likely to have the mindset of exploration, which in turn can foster innovation.

The battle of attention has given way to the battle of aberrations. Pre-COVID times were times of an information overload where it was essential for products or services to meaningfully connect to their users; it took a pandemic for business owners to realize that users at the end were humans and innovators started to look for alternatives from merely “adding value” to “adding experiences” and “adding efficiency”.

 Humanizing things is the need of the hour. At the crossroads of economy and lockdown, logic and emotion and individual needs and community needs stand the holistic approach of “Design Thinking”

Design Thinking is a new approach towards innovation as it encourages a human-centric line of thought padded with a scientificcentric approach. It brings in agility in innovation and change as a systematic process in any organization.

When Ebola attacked west Africa with a mortality rate of nearly 40%, the WHO and the USCDC (United States Centre for Disease Control) reached out to IDEO, one of the leading Design Thinking firms, to help slow the spread. PepsiCo for the first time has hired a CDO, Chief Design Officer. Luckily, I am scheduled to speak to him on a one-on-one webinar later this month to discuss how India can drive innovation using Design Thinking during the times of Covid-19.

Every business owner tries to change people’s behavior through his product or service. A crisis changes people’s behavior automatically and the challenge for an entrepreneur is to adapt his product or service to the changed behavior keeping lower risks and costs of change.

India is a social country; social distancing is not only a social need but also a cultural practice. We are a collective family-oriented race and hence social distancing, staying indoors and minimal gatherings do not come to us naturally. Indian entrepreneurs are best suited to understand the needs of India and hence have built products around it. A fastfood chain in India avoided layoffs by partnering with a health and wellness retailer, thus helping the retailer meet spiking demand in a newly designated “essential business.”

De-globalisation is the next trend. The hugely under-serviced rural and semi-urban markets of India hold sentiments and needs that are well-known to the Indian psyche, and Indian entrepreneurs can quickly iterate to service that market. The “vocal for local” sentiment will also drive national need and pride in Indian products but entrepreneurs need to be geared up to ride the wave of change.

Uncertainty is undeniably the worst for businesses — it can test a business owner’s grit, tenacity, resilience, and patience. But my advice to entrepreneurs is to play the crisis like a game of chess — the opening of the game may have been slow, to figure out policy norms, customer behavioral changes, and market response. The middle game is what sets the pace: use Design thinking processes to align goals and employees, cut cost, and detour to your organization towards relevance. The end game is the deployment play; a pilot during the crisis and fly during the neo-normal. The metrics of evaluating your success will be: Survival today, Revival tomorrow, and Profitable ever after.