Innovation & Energy > Fear & Contraction

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Innovation & Energy > Fear & Contraction

Summary: (If you only have 30 seconds, just read this)

It’s tempting to react to this rapid onset “recession” by hunkering down, canceling programs and projects and instructing your HR leaders to start crafting the layoff list. After all, preserving cash flow is critical in a period of contraction, even a contraction caused by outside factors like a worldwide pandemic. But we are counseling our clients to do the opposite.

The world is not ending. Your business needs to position itself for recovery and growth after the acute phase of the pandemic eases and you cannot continue your growth curve from a standing start. Be careful, of course, but keep the fires burning and keep your momentum. Pivot if you must, iterate, dream up new ways of doing things, but do not stand still. Innovation & Energy > Fear and Contraction.


Even though we all know that the world is always changing, for the most part, we fall into a pattern that suggests today will be at least somewhat like yesterday. At least insofar as our ability to execute a strategy or plan over a few weeks or months. Rarely does the change fall on us with the speed and ferocity of the current Coronavirus pandemic. There is an initial shock as the nature of the crisis reveals itself. There are a handful of common reactions to this revelation; Cut everything, hunker down, follow the ‘conventional wisdom’ maybe even ignore it for a while, but the leaders; those companies that not only survive this blow but come out the other side stronger, are the ones who face the challenge and INNOVATE. They try new things, they pivot to new spaces or new markets for current products or make new connections/collaborations and rethink how they do business

Following the initial shock, a state of acceptance or desensitization happens. People don’t particularly like where things are, but they are not in the hyper-vigilant fight-or-flight state any longer. Data suggests that during this phase the hiders and the cutters and the conformers make little progress, contenting themselves that at least their still alive during this crisis, while the ones that advance are the innovators. The visionary leaders and companies that test every old assumption, experiment with new ways of delivering value and collaborating with stakeholders of every stripe.

When recovery finally happens, and it is inevitable that it will, only the innovators are in a position to capitalize on the new capabilities, processes, offerings and approaches they developed during the crisis period.

I’d urge you and your team to categorize all your clients and stakeholders into one of 4 groups and vary your response to them accordingly.

Let’s call them 1. Ideal 2. Hesitant 3. Intimidated and 4. Hunkered Down. In reverse order, consider the “hunkered.” They are scared, maybe even paralyzed. These are the ones who slash every expense, question every program, start the layoffs. (Remember, only a few weeks ago, how difficult it was to find qualified people to hire? Don’t be in a hurry to cut them loose.) The “Intimidated” are not as severely reacting as the hunkered. They are conservative, waiting for the conventional wisdom to give them the “all clear” sign. These groups are unlikely to be near-term buyers. Remind them you are here for them and direct your attention to the other 2 groups. The Hesitant group is on the fence, waiting for positive signs from the market. Your company can win with this group by showing them the high cost of doing nothing. Demonstrate confidence in the future. Finally the Ideal clients, these are the ones that share your vision of the future. Things may not be rosy right now, and this obstacle has been a challenging one, but recovery will happen and they know that it is prudent to invest their time and resources in preparing for the future.

Here at Talent Partners, we are taking reasonable precautions, AND working with our clients to help them bounce back and continue to thrive as this experience fades in intensity. The world has changed, and we are committed to helping those who embrace innovation, new ideas and a can-do spirit.

I’d like to add a special thanks to Alan Weiss, Ph.D. ( for his development of the 4 groups model mentioned above. I’ve known Alan for years and his advice is always sound and timely.

Gregory Sparzo is a Senior Partner, with a primary focus is on what he calsl “3 Sigma Executives (TM)” who have remarkable track records. With his colleagues in the U.S. and globally, we serve the strategic executive needs of clients in US, EU and Asia. Click HERE for a brief overview of the advantages of our approach.

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