Contending with all aspects of COVID-19 is tough, and we’re going to take away many lessons from it. It will be a catalyst for change in numerous systems. We often think of businesses in a different way than how we approach running our lives when, in reality, they shouldn’t be very different. This pandemic reminds us of just how intertwined life and business are.

We’re already witnessing governments, businesses, and educational institutions questioning their systems and processes—and thinking differently about the status quo. With the rapid move to distance learning and working, this will likely have a lasting effect on how we learn and work going forward. It will force companies to ask critical questions, such as:

  • Why do we need brick and mortar facilities to conduct business?
  • Why are face-to-face meetings required?
  • How can we better use technology to improve the costs, efficiency, and lead-time of delivering our products and services?
  • How can we open ourselves up to a broader universe of talent by not geographically constraining our employees?
  • Is the typical classroom the most efficient and effective way to deliver knowledge and learning?

The Flip Side of Disruption

Though our lives and businesses have been turned upside down, disruption has a flip side. For instance, the iPod made the Sony Discman obsolete and revolutionized the entire music industry. Similarly, Amazon disrupted brick and mortar retail businesses. Can Jeff Bezos rest on his laurels? Absolutely not. Blockchain technology could make Amazon’s business model obsolete overnight.

Organizations should always be looking outside their walls and industries to understand the impact of what’s happening around them. They should always be challenging the existing state of affairs. Their business model could have to change in an instant due to disruptive technologies or events, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Companies should never rely on the model that has brought them success to date.

Unfortunately, many businesses may not exist in ten years because they failed to look ahead and think differently. Did anyone ever conceive that GE would no longer be a member of the Dow Jones Industrials? If we traveled back in time with this information, people would be shocked.

Planning for Contingencies

We are set up for the normal flow of things, and rarely do we think about contingency plans and the flexibility of our systems. For example, COVID-19 events have revealed just how weak our healthcare network is relative to its ability to handle a crisis. Although COVID-19 has understandably grabbed the nation’s current attention, how many of us realize that our U.S. healthcare system is responsible for an estimated 1,400 needless deaths per day due to medical errors and infections? Are we accepting this as the status quo? It seems as if we are. Why hasn’t this risen to the top of our nation’s priorities?

Just as companies are vulnerable to disruptive technologies and events, so is our nation. Beyond COVID-19, our nation’s electrical grid and internet infrastructure are incredibly open to attack.

Lean thinking should not only apply at the process level, where we are looking to improve safety, quality, delivery, service, and costs. We need to incorporate this kind of thinking as we focus on the bigger picture as well. Hopefully, the COVID-19 outbreak is only a wake-up call that will shock us out of complacency.

**Originally published at CEO World