Experience is unhelpful

This pandemic is the great leveller, many said as people around us fell sick, recovered, and, in some cases, died.

It is a leveller, I say, but not just in that it can make anyone ill. But in that for the first time (in my professional life), literally nobody around us knows anything concrete. There is some bravado, unavoidably, but it is not as blustery as it would normally be.

Most assumptions do not hold. Many strategies are floundering, faced with the double whammy of a demand shock and a supply shock. Most trajectories are unclear, or at least, uncertain or risky.

For the emerging trajectories to be meaningful, we have to reflect on what we have learnt so far about ourselves as persons, citizens, communities, as well as about the pandemic itself and the institutions we repose faith in. More on this in later posts.

While perspective and character remain unfair advantages in all times including these, having prior experience in specific sectors is not an unfair advantage right now.

In my observation, those who have dedicated their professional lives to a given sector or a specific company are the ones, whose identities and self-confidence have been hurt the most by the shock. The shock, one could argue, is past but picking up these pieces is proving hard for many.

Experience is not an unmitigated blessing in dealing with the challenges created by Covid19. Experience often holds us back from radical thinking needed to deal with an “unprecedented” shock affecting both the demand and the supply sides. This pandemic is the great leveller indeed.

Given the unique challenge of this systemic shock at once, only the resilient will survive — whether individual leaders or organisations.

Leaders and emerging leaders with empathy, perspective, abstract intelligence, the ability to frame multivariate problems, the ability to connect dots even if seemingly unrelated, and comfort in operating at the cusps of disciplines and sectors will shape our world.

Wanderer above the sea of fog, Caspar David Friedrich
(Wanderer above the sea of fog, Caspar David Friedrich)

(*Thank are due to the many conversations with friends Alan, Alex, Anastasia, Alessandro, Jennifer, Namrata, Lu, and Syamant!)

(This post is in a series of posts I wrote during the covid19 pandemic that began 2020. The first post can be read here, the second here, the third here, and the fourth here.)

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