The 2020 experience will undoubtedly affect our corporate and personal behaviours for many years to come. It would be very unfortunate if we fail to learn from its challenges and tap into the opportunities it has also created for innovation. Only those that are keen and intentional about embracing change will emerge better, stronger and relevant post-2020.

As the curtains fall on 2020, it’s a time to reflect on some of the things we can take away from what has been in many ways an extraordinary year. When the year began, I bet none of us had any idea the year would turn out as it did. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing one of the greatest interruptions to life in recent times, there is so much we can learn from the experience to help us emerge better and stronger as we go into the new year. For me, and hopefully, for many others, these are my five key takeaways.

You can’t plan for everything even if you wanted.

We always start the year with high hopes, set goals and well worked out plans of what we intend to achieve. Some of us even go to the extent of anticipating risk and putting in place mitigation measures. However, as 2020 has shown us, we can never be well prepared for everything even. Crises come in different forms and when they do what matters most is not how well we are prepared but how flexible we can be to changing situations. So, if there is a skill we need to master more its “adaptability”.

Invest in building strong relationships.

When COVID-19 struck, we all went into a situation of confusion and panic, unsure of how to navigate through. We had to get accustomed to new ways of working and staying away from our family, friends and colleagues for unusually long periods. Stress, fatigue and worry set in leading to an increase in mental health issues. Without a good social support system, it became very difficult for many people to cope. Learning from this, it’s high time we invested in building good relationships with our colleagues beyond just work, reconnecting with family and creating a close circle of friends. For corporates cultivating good relations with strategic partners could be the difference between you staying afloat or going down.

Take personal financial planning more seriously.

From my leadership position in a savings and credit cooperative society, I have seen first-hand how many people have lost their jobs, and many others who have closed down their businesses. This difficult period of financial stress I believe has reawakened us to the need for personal financial planning. Those of us who never really paid attention to where their money was coming from and going to now have reasons to be keener. Expenditure should no longer be just about the availability of money but more about necessity and value. We need to be more aggressive in pursuing investment to create multiple income streams, more prudent in our expenditures, and prioritize saving. Earn more, spend less, borrow wisely, invest more and save regularly should be our mantra.

Social responsibility is not for corporates only.

2020 has reminded us about being grateful for what we have as many others don’t have even that which we consider unsuitable for ourselves. As usual, corporates have come out with programmes to support those affected by the pandemic. Equally, we’ve seen more individuals and organized citizen groups increasingly getting concerned about the well-being of their neighbours, colleagues, friends or even total strangers. Be they short, medium, or long-term interventions, these initiatives help to alleviate suffering and give the effected people some hope. In the spirit of being our brother’s/sister’s keeper, we need, as a people, to practice more regularly community service and private philanthropy. People face misfortunes every day, and we need to stand with each other more as individuals and not just wait on government and corporate CSR programmes. 

Embrace technology or risk being obsolete.

The power of technology has been realized in 2020 more than ever before across different sectors of society. Virtual working and business automation is taking shape in many parts of the world where they were never even thought about before. Individuals and organizations are turning to technology for innovative solutions to personal and business needs. Post-2020, we’ll continue to see growing demand in IT equipment, infrastructure and solutions to power businesses, increase productivity and solve emerging personal and business challenges. We have to be open to embracing technology or we’ll become obsolete in a matter of time as the tech revolution continues.

The 2020 experience will undoubtedly affect our corporate and personal behaviours for many years to come. It would be very unfortunate if we fail to learn from its challenges and tap into the opportunities it has also created for innovation. Only those that are keen and intentional about embracing change will emerge better, stronger and relevant post-2020.

26th October 2020, Nairobi, Kenya.

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A version of this article titled “What Lessons are you Taking into the Future after a Difficult Year?” was published on page 45 of the Public Relations Society of Kenya’s PR Digest – Round up Edition. Read it at https://issuu.com/prskenya/docs/pr_digest_nov

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