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Agility and flexibility are key in navigating the next normal

By Marcus Yano on Mar 16, 2021 1:58:19 PM

Tags: News,

As the first quarter of 2021 rolls to a close, we are starting to see a glimpse of the next normal thanks to the rapid development and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine. Because of this the state of Hawaii is cautiously optimistic that we will open back up to the rest of the world sometime soon. However, the uncertainty of the reopening timelines makes it clear that we will never return to our pre-pandemic normal.

To prepare for their next chapters, businesses can use the lessons learned during vaccine development to take part in the next normal.

Understanding the data

One of the largest contributors to the speed of bringing a successful vaccine to the market was the fact that pharmaceutical companies had a treasure trove of previous data on other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS). While COVID-19 was new, it was similar enough that scientists could use what they knew of previous viruses as a starting point.

Businesses can do the same with their data and evaluate practices that did and didn’t work when they shifted their operational models in response to the pandemic. It could be as simple as looking at what types of campaigns got the most foot traffic and asking questions such as, Is there a need to shift to some type of web-based e-commerce? or, Does a firm need to be hired to help develop an email campaign? Keep in mind though that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If it worked before, try it again.

Parallel paths

A second major contributor to the speed of development was the fact that pharmaceutical companies were working on hundreds of different vaccine candidates at the same time. Instead of tons of research to determine which candidate showed the most promise, they tried them all. The most promising ones rose to the top.

Businesses need to act the same way. Traditional models for business were slow and heavily research -focused, with every concept or idea needing a business case and go-to-market plan, training and all that came with it. Companies today need to shift their mindset to moving quickly and being unafraid to try things to see what makes sense. This might seem radical but it’s definitely possible; otherwise, worrying about perfection right up until something goes live will slow you down and allow your competition to beat you to the punch.

A new technology

The last major contributor was the technology and approach used to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. Simply put, mRNA vaccines approach the process differently from the old ways. Instead of having to culture high levels of the virus to test against, mRNA vaccines use materials that can be synthesized in a lab much quicker and cheaper than a live virus. This allowed many companies to dive into the development and testing of their vaccines in a way that was unprecedented.

The next normal

I believe that we will never go back to the way we were, but instead we need to embrace what comes next with an agile mindset and flexibility. There should be the expectation that everything will change again soon, bringing yet another next normal. If we can shift to the idea that the only constant is change, we’ll be prepared to face anything the world throws at us.

Marcus Yano is an executive director at CBTS. Reach him at

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