Change, we’re told, is the only constant. And many business leaders would readily agree with this maxim. Nevertheless, until recently it was also widely assumed that the pace of change, however constant, would remain manageable. Even when a new, disruptive technology hit the market, it always felt like companies had time to adjust.
Even relatively recent history seemed to bear this out. After all, it took digital music formats almost seven years to outpace CDs in terms of sales. Similarly, it took Uber close to seven years to provide more daily trips in New York City than taxi cabs. And it took AirBnB five years to beat Hilton’s annual sales numbers and capture 20% of the consumer lodging market in the US. (To be fair, AirBnB is still far behind the market leader, Marriott.)
By contrast, only three months passed between the time the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States and the moment total or partial stay-at-home orders were in force in all but five states. In this incredibly short span of time, the lives of hundreds of millions have been transformed and hundreds of thousands of businesses are still scrambling to adapt.
An Unprecedented Rate of Change
This is one reason why it has become commonplace to refer to the current situation as “unprecedented.” We’ve seen change before, but not like this! The challenge in unprecedented times is that we can no longer rely on our standard playbooks. Instead, we must come up with new plays, new approaches and new strategies. What’s more, as we have all discovered, we need to do it fast.
The good news is that a number of organizations have risen to the occasion. In a previous post, we shared how Eastern Bank adopted a holistic approach, quickly changing how customers access their services and spinning up new offerings addressing the emerging needs of their community. As it turns out, Eastern Bank has not been alone in their rapid response to the crisis.
For example, the City of Boston recognized early on that its nearly 700,000 residents would need clear guidance and readily available information to help them adapt to a constantly evolving situation. To meet this need, they quickly created a section devoted to COVID-19 on their website homepage as well as spun up a separate page, available in 14 different languages, dedicated to sharing critical information about the virus and preventing its spread.
In San Francisco, the University of California (UCSF) undertook a similar initiative aimed at helping clinicians and the community they serve. In order to provide its staff and public health partners, both locally and internationally, with critical health and emergency information, UCSF created an entire site featuring guidance on infection control and educating patients, students and others on how best to work with the hospital during the pandemic. In addition to critical information on the virus, the site also connects visitors with a host of resources for weathering the crisis as well as directing visitors on how they can help by donating, giving blood or participating in a research study.