Turning the world on its head knocks a hell of a lot of things over. It rips up the way we’re used to working, dries up budgets, puts projects on hold, creates uncertainty. But (it’s a very big ‘but’) out of chaos always, and I mean always, comes opportunity.
I was always taught that the trick to navigating any crisis is to find some good in it, whatever that might be. It’s always there if you look hard enough. It won’t be obvious, and it probably won’t be easy. But it’s always there.
This morning, like many of us at the moment, I was mulling over the future of my job, my workplace and indeed the industry that I work in. I was searching for what opportunities that the chaos brought by COVID-19 might uncover, for me, for us – indeed for all of us. I settled on one, so please forgive the metaphor; and as a good friend once said, ‘pack a bag, we’re off on a tangent’.
Since I was young, I’ve had a fascination with shipwrecks. I watched TV shows about salvaging sunken vessels, films about expeditions to Caribbean reefs, and read stories of galleons laden with gold, going missing in exotic straits. I even received a sea magnet for my tenth birthday (still my favourite birthday gift to this day).
I even had dreams of becoming a sun-kissed, scuba-clad, sunscreen-oiled treasure-hunter/historian/archaeologist, but (un)fortunately I ended up in advertising - and although I still long for blue seas and sandy beaches, thankfully uncovering treasure is still part of my day job.
There’s an important principle in finding shipwrecks, and it’s to do with the weather. The sea, as anyone truly familiar with her will know, can be a difficult and unpredictable mistress – and that brings both challenges and opportunities.
When the sea is rough, we can’t see under the surface. We’re focused on the choppy, constantly moving, opaque water right in front of us. This is a lot like our work lives. When things are normal, we’re focused on our day to day, pushing that proposal through here, getting that project squared away there - lost in the details. We’re looking at what's right in front of our faces.
But COVID-19 has done something interesting. Heads of business are rightly scrambling to put out fires and work out a way forward. But some of us whose jobs are less ‘lead’ and more ‘do’ are having a slightly different experience.
For me, and for many friends I’ve spoken to in mid-level business, things seem to have slowed down. The sea seems to have calmed.
A calm sea after a storm is a marine archaeologists' dream. It’s where the swirling currents may have uncovered the bones of a ship, or revealed something glinting in the sand. When you think about this in your own work life, are you having a lull in your day-to-day? Have your priorities been sideswiped? Are you starting to see what lies beneath the surface? What might be revealing itself.
If you really start to look, and you might begin to see half-started projects, untied loose ends, semi-baked ideas. Things that need fixing, things that need some care. Things that you should be doing but aren’t. Things you can make better or do differently. There’s always maintenance and tidying to be done. Now is the perfect time.
When our day to day radically changes, it’s important to find a sense of continuity. Not just for the financials of a business, but for the people within it. Being cut adrift without purpose can leave us rudderless and lost, and that’s not good for any of us.
Over the next weeks and months, I’m going to take a really good look at what I’ve been overlooking, what could be improved, and what’s been off my radar, so when we come out of this, we come out of it stronger, better – and more importantly, better organised.
If your day-to-day has calmed, take a look under the surface, see what opportunities are there, and maybe try doing the same. While you're at it, rope in some help. Right now your agencies, and more importantly the people in them, would thank you for it.
Helping clients uncover these opportunities is what we do. If you’d like to chat about it, get it in touch.