COVID has triggered a wave of turmoil, turning life as we knew it upside down.
The pandemic has impacted our health, work and social lives, while intensifying geo-political tensions and global trade wars, amid escalating civil unrest centered around racism and human rights issues.
These culminating events have created the ‘perfect storm’ for upheaval and change.
But they’ve also created the perfect conditions for entrepreneurs, change agents, dreamers, pirates, geniuses and misfits, who aspire to create a new way of doing things - be it a product, service, category, or society.
Issues that have long been hindering real progress for people, societies and industries, are now firmly in the spotlight and being amplified at a global scale.
These unprecedented conditions are the perfect climate for change and progress and therefore for birthing new ‘categories’ - otherwise known as Category Creation, which is documented in the book, "Play Bigger".
A major conclusion of the discipline is that if you want to build a legendary company, you need to design and build a legendary category at the same time, and dominate it over time.
For example Uber created the ride-sharing category, long before the critical mass of consumers realised it was a more convenient alternative to taxis.
Here are four reasons why now is the perfect time to create long term change.
1) Chaos on all levels and every aspect of life
All levels and aspects of life are undergoing upheaval and therefore leading to change.
At a personal level, it started as a health crisis, then permeated into questioning our work-life equation, and for some who have been semi-engaged in work, it’s made them question if their work has any meaning to return to.
At a business level, the economic contraction, leading to swings in demand is causing more distress in most sectors and growth in others, but with the uncertainty for companies to operate, the weaker the financials and or the more rigid the company's operations in fixed cost, assets, labour and contractual obligations, the more challenging it is for it to respond.
The knock-on effects of cautious spending will reduce demand in other sectors as decisions are stalled, and corporates are taking the opportunity to right-size and streamline operations, which will result in more job losses.
SMEs will be the hardest hit given their vulnerable position with access to capital, cash, resources and skills.
All countries are experiencing this health and economic crisis at varying degrees and stages, but the world's largest economy - the US - is being particularly hard hit.
Adding fuel to the fire, global trade tensions with China are escalating.
On one hand, there is the realisation of the dependency the US has on China's manufacturing capability, while on the other hand, there is the growing awareness of China's increasing consumption and purchasing power, as well as its assertive political influence.
Moves to disentangle the supply chain from China will be a drawn out and disruptive process, as each country and company look for alternatives that will fit the cost and quality equation to ensure commercial viability.
Amidst this backdrop, the escalating geopolitical tensions between the two superpowers - US and China - may be signaling the final shifting of power from the former to the latter.
The last straw on the equation is escalating civil unrest from the anger and frustration at the community level about systemic inequality.
All crises amplify weaknesses in systems.
Companies, people and communities that are at the bottom of the pyramid always suffer the most as they have fewer resources to cope.
This is like a room filled with gas, waiting for a spark to ignite.
Both geo-political and civil unrest adds uncertainty and volatility to the economic markets.
2) Everything is up for change.
All the existing assumptions, resistances, reasons for the status quo, rules, and structures are now up for negotiation, review, and redesign.
The resistance to change and the typical response to new and different ideas has now been weakened.
In businesses, now is an ideal time to slot in any major transformation that has long been put off.
Not only will the transformation initiative go down easier, but it will also be faster and will help channel all the pent up and excess energy/capacity of the team or in the system to focus on building something new.
So, if you have been trying to design or build a new category, there is no better time to be conditioning the market to accept the category. A process that would normally take six years can now be accelerated in half the time.
Category design is about taking a design approach to creating new markets.
Collective suffering is creating a more surrendered state and a lowering of resistance to change.
3) No longer tolerating old ways that don't work
When life is restricted and things are taken away from us, we begin to realise and appreciate what’s really essential and really important to us - our priorities undergo a reshuffling.
We slow down and realise that mindless consumption might not ultimately be satisfying, nor working long hours to the detriment of our health and wellbeing.
The crisis is causing substantial losses in people's lives from all angles, and it might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back - releasing all the pent up frustrations from people and systems, intensifying calls for greater social change.
People who used to be on the sidelines or sitting on the fences, might feel that now, they have nothing to lose if they speak up or protest, since their predicaments can't get any worse.
The upheaval on all aspects of our lives is causing a cognitive overload, and people are feeling tired and overwhelmed psychologically.
The fatigue is leading to an increase in frustration and intolerance.
“People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically... No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. - Rosa Parks”
(Rosa Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott.)
Any weak foundational, systemic problems that existed before, will be brought forth for discussion and review - since with the chaos or shut down, the right-sizing and redesigning of operations will inevitably happen with recovery.
4) Time to plant new seeds for a better future
Like all storms that destroy weaker structures, vacuum and space always follows after the chaos and we will need new thinking, new ways of working, new vision, and new dreams.
However, the breaking down of structures in old sectors and reforms might take some time, it is important to be partaking in the conversation and be involved in the process of change in order to co-create the solutions and version of the better future that will be inclusive and of benefit to everyone.
For the change agents, dreamers and entrepreneurs, who have been on this journey for some time, this is actually the perfect time to double down on your vision and create and build a different and more meaningful way.
We need the innovation and fresh thinking to accelerate us out of the crisis faster.
We need to channel the capital, resources, and talents to be working on solutions and be in jobs that pave a sustainable and equitable future that expands and grows instead of diverting more capital and resources into propping the old ways that need to go.
So, the time is now, and we must be ready for the change.
When we all finally accept the chaos that is flushing through, we will start to embrace the impending change and reimagine a better future.
For those dreamers, change agents and misfits, it's time to create and build new categories to accelerate growth.