Over the coming month, one topic will overshadow Coronavirus/COVID-19: reopening the economy. Because I consider this much more than a “reopening” – beyond the bounds of any state or country, and much broader in scope than the economy – I prefer to use the phrase “rebooting the world.”
Rebooting the world will take a staged, coordinated, and inter-disciplinary strategy involving four stakeholders: governments at all levels, the healthcare ecosystem, businesses large and small, and, perhaps most importantly, us as citizens.
I believe in simplicity; thus, I’ve organized the high-level strategy into four sections, one for each stakeholder, with each section having three critical success factors needed in order to effectively reboot the world.
It’s important to note that any approach will require a carefully staged roll-out dependent primarily on 1) the healthcare-related critical success factors outlined below and 2) metropolitan-area-specific conditions (e.g., some parts of the world have already experienced their first peak while others, unfortunately, haven’t peaked yet).
I’d love to ask for help from my friends and colleagues, many of whom are experts in the disciplines covered below. For each critical success factor, a detailed plan with a synchronized timeline must be developed for each stakeholder; for businesses, each of us as business owners/CEOs will need to develop a detailed plan appropriate to our own businesses and synchronized with government and healthcare actions.
To keep this document concise, I’ll cover each factor with a single paragraph outlining the premise. Let’s get started.
1. Targeted, Equitable Financial & Health Assistance
With the incredible and unprecedented shock to societal norms brought on by this crisis, governments must step in and provide assistance that is targeted at those citizens impacted. Governments must ensure that citizens, especially those essential workers risking their health for the rest of us, don’t experience financial ruin due to complications from COVID-19 or other diseases. Governments must ensure that citizens, specifically those in what are deemed non-essential businesses and are now furloughed or laid off, are able to maintain continuity in their lives until they are re-employed. Equally importantly, public school systems must ensure, to the degree possible, continued rigor of education over virtual tools; it is imperative we not turn “distance learning” into “distance vacation” for either students or teachers; rebooting the world will require rebooting our public education system. Most important, of course, is the aforementioned medical and social health; however, it’s also worth noting the closed-loop system that starts and ends with us: we citizens are the coveted “consumer” in the economy and, if the consumer isn’t healthy, the economy won’t be healthy. Since it is the economy that provides jobs to our communities, an unhealthy economy means fewer jobs resulting in an unhealthy consumer…and the loop is closed: to reboot our economy to health, we need to reboot the consumer to health, and that, in turn, contributes to the economy.
2. Cross-Border Policy Coordination & Collaboration
Public policy tackling the reboot process must be both top-down and coordinated at all levels of government: global, national, state, and local. Overcoming this crisis is a clear case study in the importance of global policy and international coordination. A coordinated, multi-national plan will be absolutely paramount; our world is increasingly globally intertwined: people and goods cross more often than not and, without coordinating policies, government entities can potentially be undermining one another. For example, it’s not uncommon for citizens to live in one county but work in another; as we reboot, counties will have to coordinate with one another to ensure their policies are in synch. The same applies to states and, in fact, to countries as well. Finally, as we reboot the world, it will be important for governments to collaborate to serve as an insurance policy for one another: if one is currently dealing with an outbreak, another is able to lend people and resources to assist knowing that, should the inverse happen, its citizenry would likewise receive help from other entities. It is morally incumbent on wealthier nations to lend badly-needed help to developing countries many of whose populations don’t have the comfort of homes to shelter in nor the infrastructure to provide access to food and necessities. The humanitarian crisis that may unfold in developing countries if they are not helped would be tragic.
3. Contact Tracing, Containment, & Travel Controls
The United States, like all large nations, is a conglomerate of metropolitan areas. Each metro area has a different risk profile based on its population density, travel in and out of the area, the types of industry prevalent in the area, and a variety of other factors. New York City, NY has a very different profile that Park City, UT. To Reboot, each metro area must implement containment measures to ensure that travel in and out is regulated to ensure that infections are not being introduced by planes, trains, or automobiles. With such measures, some metro areas can be rebooted earlier and more aggressively than others. While unfortunate, this will allow for a gradual, staged rebooting of parts of the country that can begin contributing to the economy and support those areas unable to do so. To do this, beyond the testing outlined in the next section, each metro area, upon identifying a positive case, must immediately combine both quarantine and contact tracing measures to quickly and efficiently eradicate outbreaks prior to their spread.
4. Real-Time Diagnostic Testing (Stage 1 Reboot)
No rebooting can occur at all until real-time diagnostic testing is available in real-time and with a high-level of accuracy. It’s such testing that allows us to implement the government critical success factors above enabling the gradual and staged reboot of metro areas one at a time instead of needing to wait for a country-wide solution: testing allows us to identify infections and quarantine them to minimize infection rate. We must depend on our healthcare colleagues to improve the quality and availability of these tests.
5. Therapeutic Treatments (Stage 2 Reboot)
Beyond real-time testing, the next stage of reboot can be reached with effective therapeutic treatments which can help those who are infected in the future manage the symptoms and, ultimately, minimize the mortality rate. If our healthcare colleagues can release viable treatments that remediate the effects of the disease, mitigate complications, and lower the mortality rate dramatically, we can meaningfully loosen government controls and regain more flexibility and fluidity because we will have lowered the risk dramatically.
6. Preventive Vaccines (Full Reboot)
This is the ultimate, long-term solution for our current pandemic: a way of preventing humanity from getting the disease in the first place. Since developing, testing, and producing such a vaccine will take many more months and potentially as long as a year or two, we will have gotten used to new norms prior to this “full reboot” phase. While a preventive vaccine will eliminate the global risk of this particular virus, we will need our newfound skills to help protect us not from the next virus which we can hopefully manage sufficiently effectively to avoid it ever turning into a pandemic.
7. Clear, Transparent, & Consistent Communication
As we in the business world weather the storm and work to reboot back to semi-normalcy, communication with our teams, our clients, and our partners will need to be our top priority. Our teams are looking to us for guidance as to what’s happening; they’re hoping for transparency and for being part of the strategic planning efforts. Our clients and partners want to know what we’re seeing across their industries and across the economy, and would like our guidance as subject matter experts in our domains. Companies must communicate clearly, transparently, and consistently with one another and with their teams. Authentic relationships with employees, clients, and partners are what will allow businesses to outperform in the coming new normal.
8. Innovation Towards Opportunity
The future will be different as this crisis has left a mark that will change our behavior patterns for quite some time. Seismic shifts such as this bring with them incredible opportunities for innovation as some industry sectors struggle while others begin to flourish. As I’ve said on a number of occasions, this crisis has shaved off five years from a path to digital consumerism we were already on; we all knew it was coming, it’s just here faster than we were expecting. All businesses must evaluate these new opportunities and innovate their businesses towards them. This reboot is a time for informed, calculated risks that will pay dividends for businesses that innovate and their clients.
9. Financial & Operational Alignment
Given these seismic shifts, rebooting businesses will require alignment around new operational models and corresponding financial models. Crises test a business’ financial resilience and challenge bad habits and improper assumptions resulting from protracted periods of economic expansion as we’ve had since 2009. Businesses must rid themselves of these bad habits and assumptions; they must rebuild their financial models in a fiscally sound and responsible way.
10. Physical Distancing & Hygiene Adherence
To beat this pandemic and reboot the world, we will all need to adhere to physical distancing, hygiene, and other measures recommended by our healthcare colleagues. The degree to which we adhere will be reflected in our ability to effectively reboot the world. While these measures are inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable, it’ll be critical to allow us to move from one stage to the next. We may have to give up handshaking as a general rule; we may need to wear a mask in congested public areas; we may need to be religious about handwashing; it’s all worth it to be able to effectively reboot.
11. Patience, Persistence, & Optimism
As I mentioned in my recent piece on “the Power of Positive,” it’s incumbent on each of us to maintain a sense of optimism and positive spirit, and equally important for us to help others attain a similar level of optimism. Moreover, rebooting the world into a new normal will require a great deal of patience and persistence with government policies that may cause discomfort from time to time. Even when we get this round of the virus under control, another resurgence or two may be possible before a proper vaccine is in place. We can’t lose our patience; we must maintain our resolve to beat it.
12. All For One & One For All
While this crisis has shown many cases of the best of humanity, I’m afraid it would be disingenuous to deny some of the worst of humanity as well. To reboot society, we’ll need to be there for one another; this isn’t about just us, or just our families, this is about everyone around us. It pains me to hear, “I’m young and healthy, so I don’t care if I get it,” because after all, there are many around us who may be susceptible. Beyond that, it’s imperative we respect the fact that, as members of society, we must act for the greater good and not just out of our own self-interest. Wearing a mask in public is about saying, “I care for my fellow citizens and, out of respect for them, want to ensure I don’t put them at risk when I cough or sneeze.” That is not a sign of weakness or being overly cautious but, instead, it’s a sign of empathy and consideration for others. To reboot the world, we’ll need to take an “all for one and one for all” philosophy to our actions.