Covid-19 is high-noon in the age of relevance

Former US secretary of defense General James Mattis said, “Operate at the speed of relevance” – as a way of highlighting the importance of situation intelligence leading to agile decision making by empowered leaders. The underlying principle for businesses is the same as that for the military – strike when you have the chance. There starts the importance of Relevance 

Companies strategise, define and execute towards an overarching goal. In a complex marketplace, companies need to have a simple objective that is easy & clear for everyone to understand and get behind. Equally – anything that does not work towards achieving that overarching goal should be stopped and resources diverted to the goal. 

It is all about Relevance. The dawn of the age of Relevance was in the early 2010s … as social media gave voice to the silent majority, mass personalisation of messages became possible and companies began to realise the power of communities & purpose.  

Covid-19 – most experts agree – is accelerating trends that were already taking place. AI, DA, robotics, teleworking, fintech, edtech etc. The underlying reason for all of this is Relevance. 

When lives and livelihood come into sharp focus, it allows us to define the umbra and penumbra of what is relevant to us and our lives. 

How do businesses stay relevant in such a marketplace

  • Keep employee morale up – Under difficult & uncertain conditions like the one brought on by Covid-19, this is extremely critical. Empathy has been widely cited as a quality – but equally, companies need to reward grit, steadfastness, courage, confidence, and the ability to hustle among their employees. Extraordinary effort needs extraordinary recognition – and it sets the benchmark higher for everyone, even as it inspires
  • Foster cooperation & build bonds among teams and with suppliers and go-to-market partners. Collaboration relies on three factors – clear understanding of the simple overarching goal, clearly demarcated roles & responsibilities and mutual trust & goodwill. Companies that act with empathy in the marketplace – by providing longer credit lines, better payment terms, rethinking commercial models to suit partners & customers and understanding how their consultants can engage & deliver value –  are also the ones that will execute better
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – Understanding of that simple overarching goal… the common aim everyone is working towards, requires clear communication. The unity of purpose that a well-articulated, stakeholder specific communications plan delivers beats any instinctive yet rousing battle-cry. 
  • Actively seek change – aim to surprise – When big underlying change driving events such as Covid-19 & the lockdown come around, customers are bound to come out somewhat changed. An organisation that is able to think creatively and change the way it communicates, positions or packages its offering may find itself more relevant to consumers. Savlon happily occupying Dettol’s shelf-space in a neighbouring supermarket on the back of the PM’s aatm-nirbharta message could be such an example of surprising customers. 
  • And finally, Attack the marketplace – Adopt a vital and vigorous approach to take advantage of the valuations, leverage opportunities and appropriate share of mind. This strategy requires companies to manage risks and focus resources on their overarching goal. For example, during the current crisis, new ways of thinking may increase a hospital’s appeal to customers (as it is seen to have gone out of its way to help the community) or a real-estate & facilities management firm enabling its corporate clients to get employees back to work faster or serve customers in need better helps them differentiate in a cluttered marketplace

Finding relevance is an art more than a science. Intuition, listening skills, humility and self-awareness are critical qualities needed among leaders who seek opportunity in the storm & lightning that engulfs us. The prize is lucrative though – finding that which is truly important lies at the heart of understanding human want.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Amit Narayan
Partner & Managing Director, South Asia at Control Risks
Amit manages consultants who design, develop and implement risk-mitigation strategies for companies across South Asia. He has advised clients on political and regulatory risk, pre-investment risk, reputational DD, forensic investigations, public policy and stakeholder mapping. Amit has worked in Edelman in India and Burson-Marsteller in Singapore. He has also worked in-house at Vodafone in Singapore and The Walt Disney Company in Hong Kong.

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