COVID-19 showed us the strength of the private sector
It’s been nearly a year since COVID-19 erupted, shining a light on our need to prepare for the unexpected. While preparing for every health threat is not possible, efforts must consistently be focused on prevention, and in this effort, businesses are on the front lines of risk management every day.
Key lessons for vigilant companies to consider revolve around receiving and monitoring timely information; acting swiftly to protect individuals and the workplace environment; adapting and innovating to meet evolving challenges, coordinating internal management and team leadership to fit with the size, structure, and management of respective organizations; and participating in public-private partnerships with associations and government agencies to educate and disseminate information and therapies. These principles can guide your organization now and in the future.
An axiom among investors is that they want leadership with a bias towards action. Confident employees want the same thing, and this idea underscores a founding principle of Amazon, the belief that “speed matters in business” and “many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study.” Amazon calls it “calculated risk-taking.”
When the NBA cancelled its first game due to COVID—after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus—as a leader I knew, along with many others, that a major disruption was coming. This would either be a point break or a breaking point; we would either surf to survive or get swamped in the aftermath of inaction.
The Salt Lake Chamber led out to create a resource portal and immediately began working with the State to mobilize leadership and cooperative engagement between business and government. We created an online portal that morphed into the State’s coronavirus website and developed an internal communications program, “Stay Safe to Stay Open” into a statewide campaign that even spread to states outside of Utah.
This is the power of the private sector, Utah’s business leaders who adapt, innovate, and overcome as part of their daily routine in business—a routine that succeeded in mitigating many of the dire economic consequences that have been experienced in other states.
The ability to adapt on the fly is akin to pivoting or taking the circumstances one is given and leveraging them into an opportunity. The University of Utah launched a center devoted to fostering an adaptive process and turning ideas or university IP into business ventures. Adapting and the ability to pivot in the face of uncertainty takes behavioral skills that are not always common. This brand of leadership must be comfortable with uncertainty and have the vision to create while navigating change. Businesses succeed when they search for gaps to fill, problems to solve, and ways to improve customer reach.
Throughout the pandemic, many Utah companies have broken the boundaries of traditional innovation, building new products to help front-line workers and shifting manufacturing to meet the immediate needs of testing supplies. New paradigms have been set with workforce innovations that have promoted work from home and accelerated rapid digital adoption that will positively affect the future.
The pandemic has demonstrated the power of business innovation through teamwork as much as technology, with ideation boards and working groups focused on concepts that keep companies moving forward despite the most unyielding challenges. Cooperative examples of developing innovation teams, strategies, and tactics abound will become even more central to brand excellence in the coming years.
A model of how these processes come together can be found in the plan Utah Leads Together, a forward-thinking blueprint that coordinated efforts between the private sector and government with innovative, consistent, and collaborative engagement. Utah Leads Together continues to guide our actions along with another the more recently developed Roadmap to Recovery Coalition.
The Roadmap to Recovery Coalition is leading the way out of this pandemic by offering a real-time economic dashboard for executives, with the mission to provide decision-makers with actionable insights. This is critical for analysis and planning, and offers an invaluable tool as we plan for Utah’s future.
The pandemic will not be our last challenge but it has shown us our strengths and provided a model for crisis leadership. When the next disruption comes it will be important for all of us to build upon lessons learned and successes realized. And no state does this better.
Utah’s history is rich with examples of overcoming nearly impossible odds and serving as an example of what can be achieved even in the most difficult of circumstances. This is our performance position, built upon talented individuals, strong families, world-class education, and our community spirit—all amply proven and well in order for whatever tomorrow may bring.