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Three Rules for a Post-COVID World

“We’re all disrupters now,” says futurist Mike Walsh, who addressed 500 CSL leaders on 2021 and what comes next.

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Open door on blue sky

“Where do we go from here?”

That’s a question that futurist, speaker and author Mike Walsh hears a lot these days. The CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy on 21st Century companies, said the COVID-19 pandemic has upended all notions of normality and accelerated the pace of change. Businesses should respond by dreaming bigger than “the new normal” and planning for how they can reinvent themselves, Walsh told about 500 CSL leaders at a recent virtual gathering.

book cover for The Algorithmic Leader

Walsh shared his three rules for 2021 and beyond:

Rule #1: There is no such thing as digital disruption, just digital delivery.

Walsh said digital disruption – change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services -- has been a hot topic for years. Just think of how Airbnb changed the hotel and hospitality industry or Uber transformed transportation.

“If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear after the pandemic, it’s that we’re all disruptors now,” Walsh said. “I call it digital delivery. When I want to say there is no such thing as digital disruption, what I mean is this is just table stakes. It’s just the way we now do business. If you haven’t figured out how to be a digital business, then you are probably no longer in business.”

Walsh, author of The Algorithmic Leader, said companies need to focus more than ever on how they can use data and technology to shape the experience of their customers and patients. That means better anticipating customer needs, rethinking how to interface with them and challenging your own assumptions.

Rule #2: There is no such thing as remote work, just work.

Walsh said COVID-19 has shown that many companies should focus more on how work is done and less on where it takes place. They need to think about how their people can work better together, even when they physically aren’t.

“Remote working is just the beginning of a much bigger revolution that is changing the nature of work itself,” he said. “Becoming a 21st-Century health organization requires a new cultural operating system. That means thinking about mobility, autonomy, memory, objectivity and velocity.”

It’s more important than ever to examine how decisions are made, whether they are data-driven or opinion-driven, how information is documented and how fast you can respond to changes.

Rule #3: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will not destroy jobs, but it will change them.

AI will change the nature of some jobs, rather than eliminate them, Walsh said, noting that many people thought ATMs would result in fewer bank tellers. Instead, it just morphed the work they do.

“It’s an apparent reminder that even in a time of transformation and change, it’s not the technology that really matters,” Walsh said. “It’s still always about people.”

Welcome this difficult moment caused by a global pandemic and use it to adapt to the new rules, Walsh advised. It’s an opportunity to reimagine and redesign organizations for the future.

“Now is the time for us to rethink how we engage with the communities that we serve. Now is the time for us to redesign where and how we work. And now is the time for us to reimagine our roles as leaders. Because now, more than ever, is really a time for transformation.”