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ARTICLE: Winning the ’20s in an Accelerated Post-COVID World


COVID-19 and surrounding events have underlined the need for learning and adaptation and made success in the remainder of this decade more critical. Companies need to master new dimensions of competition, build resilience to unexpected shocks, and harness imagination to create new offerings or business models that could drive future growth.

To reinvent their strategies for a more dynamic context, leaders need to consider:

  • Renewing advantage frequently. Companies need to perform well in their existing businesses, but they must also continually explore for new growth models to achieve persistent success.

  • Balancing efficiency with resilience. COVID-19 won’t be the last major shock to hit businesses—and leaders should make sure they are prepared for the next one.

  • Shaping the context. Learning about and adapting to external changes is important, but it is not the only way to gain advantage in an uncertain context—businesses can also shape potential outcomes through their own actions.

  • Digitizing for dynamic advantage. Leaders must understand the bigger picture of how technology can create dynamic advantage—such as improving organizational learning, adaptation, and collaboration—and design their technology agendas accordingly.

  • Elevating human cognition. Though there is concern about the speed at which AI will take over routine tasks, humans can do plenty that machines cannot yet do. Forward-looking leaders will train and apply their people to such tasks.

  • Experimenting and evolving the organization. No full playbook yet exists for solving new challenges such as remote work and human-AI collaboration. Leaders must design an evolvable organization—one that embraces experimentation and is built with the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances.

  • Applying analytics to change programs. Leaders should take an evidence-based approach to change, such as by analyzing past efforts in similar situations to understand what led to success or failure, and by leveraging new granular data sources on employee behavior or external sentiment.

  • Tailoring approaches to change situations. The pandemic put companies in situations where traditional change management approaches were not sufficient because of the urgency or novelty of the required solution. Leaders need to look beyond a one-size-fits-all toolkit and tailor their approach to the circumstances.

  • Creating urgency for preemptive change. To improve their ongoing capacity for change, organizations need to maintain their ability to adapt rapidly, even when it is not forced by circumstances.

  • Creating accountability for progress. Leaders need to set and articulate clear and ambitious targets, identify new actions that will be required to achieve them, and report on progress regularly.

  • Fostering and applying a variety of thinking styles. In addition to compositional diversity, organizations should harness the benefits of cognitive diversity—not only selecting for a wider range of skill sets but also matching them to the respective contexts where they are most needed.

  • Acting beyond the boundaries of the organization. To maximize the impact and benefits of diversity, leaders should measure and manage not just the diversity of their own company but also that of partners and suppliers.

  • Expanding the business context. Leaders need expand their perspective by laying out their entire supply chain, product lifecycle, and business ecosystem, identifying potential issues, and looking at how they are evolving over time.

  • Testing and reinventing business models. Companies should address potential bottlenecks by applying business model transformations—such as owning the origins to ensure sustainable inputs or expanding access and inclusion.

  • Scaling solutions beyond your organization. Acting alone, any one business can make only a limited impact on societal issues. Leaders need to foster collective change by forming coalitions to encourage action, set standards, or promote effective policies.

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