Last week I had breakfast with my daughter (she should be studying in the UK right now, but thanks to Covid-19 her “international Master” happens to be digital at home in good old Germany). We had a conversation about the way how to feel and evaluate the current situation. Of course, for a 23-year-old student who wants to embrace the world, it cannot be satisfying to be locked at home, in an isolated study chamber. And so, we started a “what if…” session and evaluated all kinds of possibilities. From winning in a lottery and escape to a sunny island to ignoring the current turmoil at all and just move on, etc. etc.
Then I challenged her with the scenario of a longer-term crisis. “What if this Covid-19 crisis would last for another three years…what would you do?” “Commit suicide” was her first answer and for sure the emotions behind were reasonable - thinking about all the life that we have put on “pause” in the last months, close to a year now - and then imagining this to go on for another longer term was far away of promising. But then we thought a bit more serious and recalled the life we all have lived in the last years and if we believe that this will come back.
The answer is probably No. For years we have heard and read about over-pollution, about over-tourism, about over-production, about over-consumption. For sure, a lot of us have felt that physically when cleaning the house, the wardrobe, etc. in times of complete lock-down. Thinking, that all that is just a vaccine injection away and then will come back, for me is not really an appealing outlook. And in the meantime, after reading numerous reports of very smart and informed people, I am quite sure that it will not come back the way it was. Until March in this year, I would wear a suit and tie every day and I liked it, it for sure had to do with my then position, but also it felt normal. Now, for 8 months I have worn a suit - without tie - only three times at physical conferences in summer. The rest of the time, I wore smart casual, meaning nice clothes but with leisure roots and easy to wear at home and on the streets. Before March, I was travelling every week by plane, together with loads of other frequent flyers, no one would question that. I met businesspeople frequently on airports. Intercontinental events or conferences to speak about Industry 4.0 or agile organizations in Apparel Manufacturing were planned, physically of course.
In the meantime, from home, I meet international people right away - they very often sit in their home-offices too, just maybe 10000 miles away. We talk about business, we discuss about improvements to make, how to become more agile and flexible and how to implement these changes despite the current barriers. The communality here is that most of us have accepted by force that in current times we have to use these channels to stay in business, to stay relevant to the economy.
But still, many don’t like that. It doesn’t feel natural, it’s exhausting especially for the female population (a current study shows that globally 30+% of the women, in Germany about 25% of them, are close to a burn-out) and it is not sustainable yet. A lot of the current procedures and processes, be it in professional or private life, are still in this “alert mode”, still in “pause mode” in order to be changed back to the old normal when the pandemic is over.
I guess that is what we should target for the next months to come – to create another mindset about the past and the future. How can we embrace the opportunities that lie in this crisis? How can we ease our jobs by eventually give up with complicated hierarchies and manual processes? How can we leverage technology and digitalization that is waiting to be used for years now like Robot Process Automation in standardized office jobs? How can we in the Apparel industry foster demand driven manufacturing and prepare the supply chain for that.
How can we make sure that IT is used more wisely in the production and that the data which is generated is not lost or locked in local silos but instead used for a better forecast along the supply chain?
With the current continuous situation of Covid-19 and the not soon ending lockdowns everywhere in the world, the time to “pause life” should be replaced by a time of “play a new song”. We should prepare ourselves now for a different world that we are going to live in and as much as I love my wonderful suits and ties… I am not sure if they, as a business requisite, will be part of my future anymore – sorry to say that as a passionate former tailor…. Anyway – enjoy the week…