Never Waste a Crisis


Agencies who innovate in the way they work and operate will be much better prepared for the opportunities that will appear post the pandemic writes Ranjit Raina, Geometry Encompass CEO.

Covid-19 hit the reset switch for the experiential industry. Well into Lockdown 4.0, and things continue to remain volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In the meanwhile, crystal-ball gazing has become a mainstream industry.

Will the experiential industry bounce back?

Absolutely. I have little doubt. The question we all struggle with is, when? And what will the new business landscape look like? How do we adapt and what do we prepare for? The beginning is always a good place to start. A prerequisite for being able to bounce back starts with making sure we are around when the pandemic ends. We are trapped in a VUCA maze, and the only way out is to have your VUCA A-Team by your side.

Volatility is like a raging wildfire, its impact is immediate and instantaneous. It is important to create a control line for the business. Control lines are the most important tool used by firefighters to suppress wildfires. Simply put, control lines are boundaries employed to control how and where a fire spreads. Each Industry is unique, with unique strengths and weaknesses. Within an industry, agencies are equally unique, identifying individual strengths and weaknesses becomes critical to create control lines. Across the experiential industry, our control line is liquidity.

Agencies with finance leaders who understand the nuance of business will have an edge in creating the most efficient control lines to manage the damage without sacrificing future potential. So make sure your VUCA team has sound financial minds.

Uncertainty creates doubt.

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!” Douglas Adams wrote in his seminal work, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

While volatility manifests itself physically, doubt burrows deep in our minds. As counter intuitive as it may sound, the most effective way to handle this mental challenge is physical action.

Address uncertainty with decisive action. Making big bets when possible outcomes remain vague at best, is daunting. So don’t make big bets, instead prepare for multiple outcomes. Place many small bets on different things, this is the time to be innovative and agile.

The truly innovative will thrive in this chaos and innovation is not just about adopting technology, it is in the approach to business. Agencies who innovate in the way they work and operate will be much better prepared for the opportunities that will appear post the pandemic. Encourage innovation as a practice across every facet of the business, in creative, account planning, operations and finance. Make sure you empower the innovators in your agency because they are most likely to help you find the fastest way out of this maze.

Volatility and uncertainty have been a part of the experiential industry for long now, of course never at the present scale. However, for me the most challenging aspect about our current situation is the sheer complexity. Never have I encountered a problem that had so many inter-dependencies. We are used to working within simpler constructs. We understand our business and extend that understanding to the business of our clients. The more intellectually inclined amongst us have other areas of interest that they add to their knowledge base. Over time, we build what I like to call a gated knowledge set.

I doubt if anyone has a complete understanding of the complexity of our situation. The interdependency of sectors, industries, economies, institutions and governments. The only way to make sense of this complex situation is through a process of collaboration. We have to aggregate individual knowledge and experience sets to create a much larger and deeper knowledge network. I am already seeing an unprecedented exchange of ideas within the industry. Agency heads are working together to understand what this pandemic means to us, some are even championing the co-creation of solutions to help the industry stay strong and bounce back. The one big bet I would make during this crisis is on collaboration. Collaboration with internal teams, industry and clients and even beyond. So make sure your VUCA team talks to each other and other VUCA teams, because we are not alone in this.

If uncertainty creates doubt then ambiguity is one of the leading causes of insecurity, it makes it impossible to accurately predict threats or opportunities for the team and organisation.

Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Replacing turbulence with ambiguity captures our current predicament perfectly.

We cannot rely on yesterday’s logic because the lessons of the past are not enough to guide us. The only way around ambiguity is clarity and communication. Sounds a lot simpler than it is, because clarity requires introspection. The pandemic is forcing us to confront the very nature of the business. Without complete clarity on the new structure and the ability to reimagine the business one can’t chart the path to whatever awaits us. We will have to redefine the industry and re-imagine it for the post pandemic world. The ways of the past will have to be changed and some of this change will be hard. The choices before us are limited, either we can drive the change or change will drive us. Make sure your VUCA team has people who are questioning the status quo and are good with a compass because someone has to navigate for you.

So get your team together, because as someone said, never waste a crisis.

View the article at Everything Experiential.

Download the PDF here.