Companies have opportunity to rethink their old approaches: Stefanos Zenios, Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Covid-19 has affected industries differently, but one area that we can see companies looking to address in the post-Covid-19 world is their use of technology to change the way people work,” said Stefanos Zenios, faculty director- Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Stanford Graduate School of Business. In an interview to ET’s Rica Bhattacharyya, Zenios talks about the role of innovation in the post Covid 19 world, challenges faced by leadership and the need to begin thinking about and pursuing ideas that meet the new “normal.” Edited excerpts:

What role can innovation play in the current uncertain milieu?

Uncertain times can spur innovation because they bring new needs, challenges and opportunities to light. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every industry and demographic, but not equally. For example, the way that our healthcare and education systems as well as our travel and hospitality industries operated before the pandemic is not possible now, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Companies were forced to adapt quickly to keep people safe and limit the spread of the virus. But now, as economies around the world start to reopen, we have an opportunity to think about the challenges that have emerged and how we can address them with new solutions and approaches as we move toward a post-Covid-19 future.

What prompted Stanford to come up with the Stanford Rebuild programme – is there a demand from corporations and leaderships to learn the new ways of doing businesses in the post-Covid world and come up with newer solutions?

Stanford Rebuild (a global innovation sprint) was designed to help accelerate the recovery from Covid-19. The disruptions caused by this pandemic have been felt around the world, and will continue to be felt for some time to come. With these disruptions, many new challenges and opportunities have been brought to light that innovators can help address.

As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic and economies around the world begin to reopen, it’s important to address the challenges that we’ll face as we work toward a post-Covid-19 future. With Stanford Rebuild, we want to support and encourage those who want to tackle these challenges by giving them the tools and resources they need to identify, test and refine their business solutions.

During the shelter-in-place order that was put in place in Silicon Valley this spring, people across Stanford came together to figure out how to make an impact in our communities, and those beyond. We recognized that many others might have the same desire to help, but not know where to start. With that, Stanford Rebuild began to take shape. We brought together students, staff and faculty from groups and schools across Stanford University to create a program that would help problem-solvers and innovators make an impact and address the unique challenges that have emerged from Covid-19. We feel that there’s a need for people and organizations to begin thinking about, and pursuing, ideas that meet the needs of our new “normal.”

Which are the areas companies are looking at to change in the post pandemic world?

Covid-19 has affected industries differently, but one area that we can see companies looking to address in the post-Covid-19 world is their use of technology to change the way people work. This pandemic has forced many economies to shut down, either fully or partially, to limit the spread of the virus, which means many companies shifted to a mostly-remote workforce. Offices and in-person interactions were the norm and thought of as essential to productivity, but with the shutdowns, companies began using technologies like Zoom and Slack to increase productivity and keep their workforce connected. And it worked. Now, companies have an opportunity to rethink their old approaches as they work to create their new “normal” in a post-Covid-19 world.

What are the main leadership challenges at the moment?

A few challenges that leaders are facing during this time include how to develop a strategy for their organization to adapt and change, how to keep their workforce motivated and how to stay close to people in their organization and ensure they feel connected with each other and the broader picture. Also, if an organization needs to downsize, leaders will need to figure out how to do it respectfully and humanely.


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