How to focus on business innovation during the Covid-19 pandemic

Business innovation during the Covid-19 pandemic may sound like an impossible concept. The effects of Covid-19 have been devastating for the economy, and people in positions of leadership have had to face unprecedented challenges. As the pandemic may be slowing down, opportunities for business innovation in the time of Covid-19 are actually emerging and leaders need to be prepared to take advantage of them. We spoke to Alis Anagnostakis, executive coach, Co-Founder of Mind Learners and Senior Associate at Performance Frontiers, about what leaders can do to change their workplace culture for the better.

What challenges will people in positions of leadership face in the post-Covid-19 workplace and how can they start preparing for them?

Alis Anagnostakis: The challenge now, for many leaders, is to be aware of the business innovation opportunities Covid-19 had brought and to capitalise on them going forward. The rush of adrenaline brought by the first wave of the pandemic is decreasing in some parts of the world, while in others people are seeing the second wave coming and going into crisis-mode again. The challenge is to craft the ‘new normal’.

Many organisations have decided to never return to a policy of full-time work from the office, so it looks like work from home (at least some days per week) is here to stay. The challenge for leaders now is to create a communication flow with their teams that accounts for this more flexible way of working; to keep on staying transparent, involving their teams in decision making, communicating constantly and ensuring team members who work from home don’t feel disconnected.

Many leaders have had to let go of their needs to control throughout this time – trust has become more important than ever. I have heard some senior leaders humbly admitting they don’t have the answer to everything and learning to access the collective wisdom of their teams to make decisions in what seems to be a very ‘fluid’ and highly unpredictable reality going forward.

A big opportunity for many organisations is seeing how work processes were suddenly simplified in the middle of the crisis and starting to believe that cutting down bureaucracy is actually possible. Many teams and organisations have the chance to become more agile, but it is up to leaders to make sure their organisations really learn and capitalise on these lessons revealed by the pandemic, instead of returning back to the ‘old normal’ as soon as the threat has passed.

How will the culture in corporations change as a consequence of people working from home? What changes do you hope to see?

Alis Anagnostakis: What I am seeing now is two trends – organisations attempting to recreate the pre-pandemic normal and organisations actively constructing a completely new normal. I am seeing more people challenging norms and ways of working which had been entrenched for many years, people questioning whether things can be simplified, done differently. I am seeing much more flexibility and a definite trend suggesting work from home is here to stay. I have seen more people empowered and emboldened by the amazing things they were capable of doing at the peak of the crisis, and I am seeing more leaders opening up to the idea that they need to move away from the role of solution givers, into the role of space holders and great question crafters.

I think with a crisis of this magnitude, comes great danger – as some toxic trends like authoritarianism tend to become more entrenched, fuelled by fear; but at the same time there is also great opportunity – as people can no longer make sense of the world, they are stimulated to grow into new stages of consciousness. Crises are great catalysts of innovation, they shake up the old order of things and make room for a new one. I just hope that we are collectively wise enough to ensure this new order will be to the benefit of mankind, not against it.

Alis AnagnostakisAlis is a long-time group facilitator and executive coach who supports leaders, teams and companies on their journeys of personal and organisational evolution. She has a Masters in Positive Psychology and is now undertaking a PhD, exploring transformative learning and leaders’ consciousness development. She deeply believes wisdom is one of the scarcest and most needed resources in today’s organisations and focuses her research on new ways to help broaden leaders’ mindsets and worldviews towards more complex and mature ways of thinking and acting. You can read more about her work and research here: www.alisanagnostakis.com   

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