How COVID has forced us to solve the problems we thought we’d have to live with…

You’d be forgiven for reading the title of this post with a degree of scepticism, or even confusion, as we remain in the midst of the global pandemic. This is perhaps the greatest, and most visible global problem we’ve faced in a generation.

Across the world people are utilising a desperate situation, using it as an opportunity to address issues that go beyond the immediacy of the here and now to focus on problems that plagued humanity long before COVID.

Lockdown has provided a period of reflection; months spent without seeing family and friends, a summer without sport, and no easy way to jump on a plane to escape the whole ‘thing’, has forced many of us to revaluate how fortunate we were BC* (before COVID). However, it would be naïve to think that our previous lives were anything close to perfect.

Rolling out of bed on a Monday morning, filled with a sense of dread and apprehension at the thought of another cramped and clammy London tube. Think of the screeching halt, the delays, daydreaming of Friday afternoons leading to those restful, relaxing weekends with loved ones that have become a rarity in an increasingly busy life.

For some, a life BC meant existing on autopilot, content to conform to everyday ‘frictions’, lacking the time and space to try to change them. Lockdown has broken our automated routines, and in doing so it has freed us to make important changes to our lives.

Previously, we have explored the role the pandemic has played in teaching us how to exhibit kindness, how to become more empathic, and how to revel in independence. This week, we wanted to take a closer look at how a life in lockdown has taught us to pivot, problem solve, and push ourselves to become comfortable with the uncomfortable — both in our personal and our professional lives.

The clock ticks slower in lockdown

COVID is a global challenge, but without the everyday messiness getting ‘in the way’, people are finding themselves with the time and space to address other challenges in their personal lives.

Have you always wanted to learn how to put up that shelf? Now’s the chance. Have you been meaning to reconnect with that friend you’d lost touch with? Well, go for it! Have you been struggling to empower your workforce to take accountability and make tough decisions? Here’s your opportunity.

Proactive wellness in a world of reactionary health

Reactionary responses from government officials and health experts (e.g. social distancing measures, PPE requirements) have been enforced worldwide, but on a personal level we see people looking for greater control over their own health and mental wellness.

The lines between health, wellness and hygiene are being blurred. We’ve seen an uptake in exercise to maintain fitness and feel more alert, but also as a form of preventative care in the battle against COVID.

But this is part of something bigger and more entrenched. For years governments have been driving public health campaigns on the importance of frequent exercise and nutritious diets. People have now found themselves, more by accident than design, with the time to begin channelling their effort into these endeavours — and no longer look for the excuses that previously inhibited them.

Some are finding themselves with the time to exercise more regularly (e.g. ‘run 5, nominate 5, donate 5’) or begin to appreciate the value of home-cooking.

Ultimately, a life BC failed to place importance on time for oneself. Now that we find ourselves in danger, threatened by COVID as an invisible enemy, we recognise the importance of self-fortification. Additionally, the past few months have given people the chance to devote themselves to self-improvement, mental wellbeing and gaining a greater appreciation for holistic health.

We anticipate this appreciation for holistic health will continue. WGSN states that as people enter a recessionary mindset, “they will use exercise and nutrition as a means of shoring themselves up against illness in order to help ensure financial security, and also as a source of joy and catharsis”.

Crisis is the catalyst for innovation

Listening to a brilliantly candid webinar from RBSI’s Head of Digital & Innovation, Jamie Broadbent, it struck me that he did not view COVID as a hindrance or a hurdle to be cleared, but rather an opportunity to innovate in a way he had always hoped to.

Though no one is immune from the effects of COVID, the challenge that RBSI have faced is how to fundamentally change the way the organisation operates to support customers that have had to fundamentally change their own lives — and therefore the way they interact with their finances.

This, Jamie said, forced the business to “flick the switch and go into crisis management mode” — working in a very different way, to bring the right people in at the right stage to make the decisions needed to change at an unprecedented rate. The big learning the business are now looking to maintain is how to leverage this reactionary behaviour as a way of working for the future, as its proved far more efficient than the way they were operating previously.

There isn’t a playbook or a framework that you can work from. RBSI don’t see it as a strategy change, but rather a strategy accelerator. They have addressed an organisational weakness — and probably a weakness of financial services as a whole — speed!

HX Learnings

Compared to RBSI, Brand Genetics is small fry. But despite this, we have also had to change the ways in which we operate - both internally and externally. We pride ourselves on a human-first approach and so the prospect of moving entirely online created logistical and operational challenges.

Anchoring ourselves to the values and fundamentals that define our human-first approach and methodologies has meant we have been able to replicate our client and consumer experiences, with the same depth, at speed, and on a truly global scale.

As we settle into the pandemic as a way of life, and a sense of normalcy returns, we must reframe adversity as an opportunity. Circumstances have forced companies to innovate, but not necessarily by creating entirely new products but by making the tough decisions more efficiently.

This is not a moment for brands and companies to stand still and wait for the storm to pass, but to look for those prevailing winds to understand how they could help shift thinking, inform strategy and secure a future in an increasingly complicated landscape.

We hope for a world BC where companies look to harness a mindset of post-traumatic growth and hold onto the idea that change doesn’t need to be necessitated by a global virus.

Simon Hall is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in reinventing big businesses at pace, he has experience in creative problem solving, thought leadership and reframing human insight and has worked across strategy, leadership and brand.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics

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