16 Feb, 2022, 07:18 AM | by Pervaiz Nasir
Possibilities and Potholes - 2022 – the year ahead
2021 was a wonderful year compared to 2020 but we are not out of the COVID era yet.
In January, some countries in the EU started to remove barriers to travel and commerce, which bodes well but there is still some way to go to have a restoration to the pre-Covid era, as the lockdowns and restrictions in other countries show. We are lucky that in the UAE life returned in a large part to normal more rapidly than most countries.
2020 put to the test the skills and nerves of a lot of leaders and managers who struggled to deal with circumstances that were not taught in Ivy league case studies on how to manage a global population lockdown and economic carnage while handling an invisible enemy.
Governments are easing lockdowns, quarantine rules and implementing laws and regulations to support businesses to flourish because the alternative of another major halt to business activities is certain economic death.
It is still a long dusty road ahead till we get to normality, and along the way there are potholes and opportunities that will not look like a normal pothole or opportunity. We need a fresh pair of eyes and mentality to identify them.
2020 forced us to adapt to new realities and redesign the way we undertake activities including working, socializing, education, travelling, entertainment, medical, finance and social impact projects amongst others. The rapid advances compressed three to four years’ worth of change within a year.
The technology sector has seized this opportunity to design and launch products that could change the traditional methods of doing business at a rapid pace. These new techs could enable businesses and governments to rewrite the economic landscape over the next five years in major areas of life, for example:
Acceleration of investments into development and use of Cryptos, NFTs, Blockchain and Metaverse, where you exchange cash for virtual items, robotic surgery, remote workforce, digital nomads, peer-to-peer payment platforms bypassing government regulations. Creating of Digital Banks, Digital Assets, Drone delivery, Electric Vehicles, retraining of knowledge workers, AI and Machine learning nearly removing human oversight.
Overlapping digital micro economies setup by the private sector to build a tribe of consumers for their offerings via Crypto and NFT but with little oversight or safety net – for the investors and consumers.
The Gig economy, reduction and in certain cases near disappearance of human contact, disappearance of jobs and new jobs created, re-education and re-training.
Cyber security and hacking attacks and a new breed of information and digital currency thieves amongst others, which leaves us more vulnerable to any bad code in the program or vulnerabilities used to manipulate data to our disadvantage. Or payment services venerable to power and mobile data services if impaired for even an hour which could create a major inconvenience to doing business due to our growing dependence on all things digital.
And at times we may not have a way back out of the rabbit hole.
There is a rapid business upturn on the horizon – unless we end up with a new deadly outbreak or any major geopolitical instability or supply chain issues that will result in rising costs due to shortages of raw materials and effect production and delivery, which will have a cascading effect on economic recovery. Lot will depend on the velocity and direction of market volatility, movement of trade and finance, Supply Chain management, freedom of people movement and financial support to medium and small enterprises amongst others.
At the same time, we need to effectively help the less fortunate whose livelihoods got destroyed, like a hammer cracking a walnut, to get back on their feet. Do not think of this as social responsibility but as new future consumers. You are investing in them to become stable consumers and wealth generators of the future and that is good for all.
New thinking on managing companies, new thinking on leading and managing people and implementing innovative technologies should be studied for suitability and implemented thoughtfully by companies, so that it does not fix a problem that never needed to be fixed.
We need to Re-think management beyond the traditional organization structure of command, and control.
The next 12 months will accelerate the speed of change that started with COVID-19. We need to hold on to the railings (and sometimes there is no seat belt holding you down) on the economic rollercoaster and not fall off, otherwise you could miss the upturn.