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Leadership in Covid19 – Obstacles

In my previous posts, I raised the crucial role leaders play in times of crisis to manage the mental state people are in, and lead them through these difficulties (Post 1). I also discussed the importance for leaders to “CHOP the FEAR’ of uncertainty and non-clarity through constant communication to staff and stakeholders (Post 2).

In this post, I’d like to touch on how can leaders get their business out of the maze of obstacles created by the Covid19 crisis.

The global shutdown and lock-down impacted the economic situation of many corporates, organisations and government entities. This will influence the financial stability of individuals as well as companies.  What can we, as leaders, do to overcome the obstacles and turn them into stepping stones for growing the business?

I have learnt that the way we view things is how we do things. When people played the Tetris game for hours and then went and looked at the world, they viewed the world differently, impacted by the way the game forces your mind to match different shaped tiles together. We can also change our thoughts pattern to view things differently. (Starting, for example, by changing “this is impossible’ to ‘how can we make it possible’).

Thinking creatively, may be easier said than done, especially when our mind is in stress and constant worries due to cash flows, employees ’salaries etc.

Some tips to use different methods to change the way we think about the problem:

  1. Talking to people (not only from our industry), the more diverse, better opportunity to ‘think out of the box’. Staying away from our ‘box of network’ and reach out, even to distant acquaintances.
  2. Asking questions, using our inquisitive minds; ‘what good can come out of it’? How can we turn this obstacle into opportunity? “What a brilliant opportunity is disguised in this impossible obstacle?
  3. Crisis moves us; does it move us backwards or forwards? Asking different questions in different ways and discussing them also with our employees and stakeholders may create a breakthrough in our thinking of the situation.

ORT SA, is an educational NGO and part of a global network ORT, we have had long impact on people’s lives through education, since ORT was established in 1880. We have been asking many questions since the Covid19 crisis, as it impacted the schools, the youth and businesses we are working with. One of the question we still ponder about is; “How has this crisis and its’ emergency response to COVID-19 will impact the future of education and re-imagining of schooling?” This question keeps moving us forward to redesign our programmes and our offering to move remotely so to ensure we can reach each of our beneficiaries wherever they are. We have the opportunity now to draw the picture of education of the future, narrowing the gap with the less privileged communities, while doing so. It is not Impossible until it is possible.

Reboot Post Covid19

We may have been super organised prior to Covid19 planning our day, week , month, even the year ahead of time. We may have been great in prioritizing things on our to-do lists, ticking as we go along and feeling super productive. If there is something that the Covid19 taught me is that a crisis is very good in ‘messing up’ our plans and its even really good in prioritizing things for us. And, maybe, in away, it is something we should feel grateful for. Family and time with our loved ones, whether we were lucky to have them with us, or not, has shot up, for many, to the top of the priority list. So while earth and the world is doing a ‘restart’ or ‘rebooting’, we should utilize the opportunity and change some of the settings before we go back to ‘new normal’. Keeping our family and loved ones on the top of our ‘to-dos’ and maybe create a ‘not-to-do’ list to ensure they remain on top.

Education in times of crisis

(Insight from Webinar http://www.ort.mx organised by ORT University Mexico)

One of the things that Covid19 brought with (together with worldwide chaos and uncertainty) is the understanding, that this is a crisis, in its full definition; the virus targets human lives, is unexpected, it creates uncertainties and poses a threat to human existence.

Another interesting phenomena is happening, almost parallel to the spread of the virus; the break through of usage of virtual platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts and YouTube streaming. Many of the online webinars and forums are dealing with the crisis in various ways, from the psychological to professional and economic impacts.

One of the most interesting virtual webinar I attended, recently, was organised by the University of ORT Mexico and World ORT, discussing ‘education in times of crisis’. What I found enlightening in the discussion by top professors in the field of education, is the forward thinking and ‘out of the box’ ideas that were shared with almost 500 participants from all over the world.

Ms. Mariana Ludmila Cortés who is the former Vice-president for development of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), where she traveled to over 40 countries developing and implementing large scale education projects for disadvantaged children, claimed that there is a crisis in education worldwide, regardless of Covid19. According to World Bank (2018), globally, 6 out of 10 children and youth are not meeting proficiency levels in reading and mathematics despite of completing years of schooling in the developing world. The Learning crisis calls us to be specific with the terms we are using while trying to tackle the problem. Learning vs Teaching ; Education vs Schooling. She suggested that we need to change HOW we deliver education and urged people to take charge of their own learning.

Prof. Sidney Strauss Director of Research at Ammachilabs, professor at Amrita University and former Professor of Education has vast years of research in education. He shared the finding, that children are able to teach each other (from as early as one year old). Teaching is natural to human beings. He claims that evidence in caves of our ancestors shows that, already at the times when human were making stone tools, they had managed to transfer the knowledge.
If this is the case, what are the implications on education? we need to rethink of schools and the roles they play. We need to find ways to harness this natural ability of people to teach and for children to teach each other.

Prof. Moisés Salinas Fleitman Rector of the ORT University Mexico, examined the roles of education in times of crisis. In addition to the obvious roles of being a source of reassurance , reducing stress and ensuring delivery of practical and psychological tools to confront the crisis, he added that the crisis could be seen as an opportunity for innovation. Crisis has a disruptive manner and it could be a tool for us to switch from threat to opportunity for innovation in education.

I do believe that, we now have an opportunity to analyse the disruption in a creative and collaborative manner. We could learn from different industries and how they have been adjusting to the changes (such as communicating and expanding stakeholders networks through virtual platforms). We also have to be mindful about those communities that do not have the privilege of technology and accessibility to connectivity.

Screenshot of the ORT.MX Webcast April 2020

Reflections -First Day of Lockdown

First day of lock down in South Africa. I may be going through the five stages of grief related to the changes occurring around me. The most devastating part of it is that I can’t take the dogs for a walk and the concerns of their well being. Caring for others is the ‘moto’ of the Covid19 measures taken by government and I feel like I am failing my pets in this regards. 😦 Determined that this lock down won’t become a “knockdown” for my mood and well being! After all I have the privilege of having my family with me and continue working from home.
Determined to make the best of it and seek opportunities for self growth and the continuous growth of my organisation ORT SA which does incredible things in this country.
Putting structures in place to replace my ‘normal’ routine will be the first plan of action. (include WFH routine/ family time/ learning slots/ spiritual/ exercise).
Acceptance.

Preparing for Corona is unpredictable as predicting the future

The Corona virus crisis hitting the world country by country on a daily basis makes one realise the sad, known fact that we cannot predict the future.
When we started this new year of 2020, or when we approach new month, week or day, we need to be prepared for changes, knowing that change is the only certain thing we can be sure of.
Whether we run a company, manage teams, train/ teach, in retail, health, education or any other industry we should be prepared to surf the wave of change and be able to adapt to it’s implications.

The epidemic caused by the Corona virus is a an example of a case that can impact almost every area in our lives and change the way we do things, go to work, school or maintain our health. Technology has a role to play in assisting ‘surfing the wave’ and we could be applying new ways of doing things as we learning and adapting to new realities.

Though we can’t predict the future, we can prepare for what we think it will bring. Learning from countries impacted by the virus, we can, each in our own industry, think on measures to take to alleviate the impact that the changes may bring into our lives. 

As schools close down due to concerns of the epidemic spreading, we should explore online learning platforms to ensure that learning and the schooling is not disturbed.
Online applications could also help with identifying the symptoms and alert on areas that are impacted by the virus.

Please share – What measures did you take or are preparing yourself to take in light of the Corona?