“We find ourselves stripped down to what really matters, and the real essentials in life and in business”
In the 14th and final round of conversations with our participants, we posed each of them the same question – about what gifts they thought the pandemic had brought in its wake. We acknowledge it may feel somewhat uncomfortable to discuss silver linings of a pandemic that has caused (and will continue to cause) more disruption than most of us could have remotely imagined in late December, when the world first heard about Covid-19. It is also clear that for many of our participants, in particular the Chief Resilience Officers, the frontline of the pandemic response is still very much a full-on occupation.
That said, we felt this was a good time to invite them all to reflect back over the whole of the journey thus far and pick out some of the light that always accompanies times of challenge and darkness. While we asked them to reflect on a personal, organisational and societal level, below we highlight just those insights relating to themselves personally. As the organisational and societal gifts will find a natural home in the other outputs of this project, we felt compelled to provide a space for the more personal gifts from the crisis and shine a spotlight on our participants as people, first and foremost. In that spirit, and with their permission, we have included their names with the quotes below.
New lifestyles and family-time
Barbara: Time with my husband. And once we reached a point where we knew what we had to do, and it was a matter of working virtually, it was possible to actually use the time for thinking. The quiet was incredibly helpful for that. For some the sensory deprivation is torture. For me, it’s opened up a whole new world.
Steve: Getting to see my kids is clearly the upside. They’re in their 20s so you don’t get that much time with them. You kind of see them as fully baked. I’m seeing them work, I’m seeing them engage professionally. You don’t have that many opportunities to do that. That’s been fun, interesting, different.
Peter: I’m getting out for a run more often than I was. It’s less eating on airplanes, less client lunches. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and I’m feeling better for it. I’ve also learned that I can work successfully from home. Maybe this is a generational thing, that working from home always felt like I was cheating. I didn’t feel I was putting in a proper shift.
Mahesh: Health, definitely. I am not very health conscious. My wife does yoga regularly, so I started taking lessons from her. And then I’m an urban planner. For example, when we talk about mobility, we always talk about pollution levels, access, etc. Now, we should talk about the public health and pandemic point of view as well. How can we decentralize housing? From a personal perspective, I think that was a very good learning.
Realizing full leadership potential
Craig: I feel I’ve evolved as a leader. It’s the first crisis I’ve approached with a very deliberate sense of, “What is my role as a leader here and how do I exhibit leadership?” It struck me that this was the leadership moment and now was my time to demonstrate leadership, and I feel I have been able to do that. I love tackling complex things, and despite how hard it has been, I really feel I’ve been able to stretch my legs, intellectually and as a leader, and that is incredibly fulfilling.
Alex: An opportunity to see what’s possible when you lean all the way in (maybe to an unhealthy extent early on!). Then I’ve made closer connections with colleagues – we are now friends, family because of what we’ve gone through. It’s helped remind me what I’m capable of, why I’m here, my decision to take this role. It’s helped me move more confidently in the world, if that makes sense.
Tom: For me it’s been the white privilege thing. I inherently knew it, of course. You’d have to be totally blind not to know it. But I never really thought about it. I never really internalized it. Just the extent of it. And because COVID gave me that extra time where I wasn’t just running around, I had time to think about it. For several days in a row, all I did was just watch the protests and think about it. And because I had more time, I could really reflect on it – what it means to me and how it’s worked in my life, giving me advantages that other people just don’t have.
Adriana: I think a sense of empathy has touched people. They sense a more communal way or a more collective way, a sense of collective empathy.
Elaine: The closeness of strangers. I’ve connected with so many interesting people outside my immediate network, which is bringing new ideas and new things together.
Going back to what is most important in life
Ann: The chance for a deep reflection about what are the most important things in one’s life. I would even say I changed my understanding of the country that I come from, Denmark. I come from a very safe place, a place which takes care of you. I never looked at it like that before.
Hany: It’s enabled me to get rid of a lot of clutter in my life, personally and professionally. Then it’s deepened a lot of relationships that matter the most, because for some reason I found people who I otherwise would have had cursory conversations with, now actually have the time, even quite senior people, to speak and to pay attention and to engage on things. There was a lot of room for people to hide behind the facade of being busy or the need to be somewhere. We take all that away, and there’s a real genuineness that happens with people. And a lot of things that I’ve put in the bucket of ‘nice-to-haves’ or conspicuous consumption, have fallen away. And we find ourselves stripped down to what really matters and the real essentials in life and in business.
Piero: I feel I got the chance to live in a positive way, by going back to the real, concrete needs of life. You get closer to death, because when there is a war, you see death close to you every day. Every day you are afraid that something could happen. When you’re living a comfortable life, you know that death is there, but you never touch it.