Plotting a course through the fog of Covid

By Jake Pryszlak, Associate Partner

Business, governments and individuals have all taken dramatic action in the face of COVID-19. Change has been delivered with speed and at a scale we have never seen before. 

It may be in common parlance to say we delivered five years’ change in five weeks but when you are moving at light speed, seeing into the future is both more important (you really don’t want to burn up in a star) and more difficult. The reality is that most organisations are flying blind with managers being forced to use gut instinct rather than data and reliable forecasts when it comes to decision taking.

Many companies that were healthy and growing at the start of March are now not trading in a meaningful way. We’ve seen famous and strong brands taking unprecedented steps – even Coca Cola ceased marketing in the UK at one point.

When things are moving so quickly, can we even attempt to understand where the market is heading and what consumers will expect or even demand?  

Almost every decision we take is based on imperfect information – we’ll make a judgement on whether to carry an umbrella based on the colour of the sky and the weather forecast we heard in the morning.  But we might still end up getting wet.  If we’d checked the rain radar just before we set off, we’d have had another perspective – and in a fast changing environment market research still provides valuable additional information to inform decision making.

There’s little doubt that attitudes will have changed – how much, in what way and for how long are the key unknowns.  

After the initial rush to respond to the pandemic businesses are now focused on planned changes to survive or thrive.  Understanding the attitudes of staff, consumers and other stakeholders – practically and emotionally – is a big part of an evidence-based approach to that process.

The world has changed and organisations need to explore what that means for them. What are customers and other stakeholders thinking, feeling, doing, worrying about? 

Already today, people know what they are doing differently and how they feel: all you need to do is ask them.