Historically, if we look at the black swans of the last two decades – the SARS outbreak in China in 2003 and the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 – and the proceeding developments (e.g., Alibaba’s Taobao, Uber, Airbnb and WhatsApp) we can see that opportunities exist in times of crisis.
For young generations (millennials and Gen Z) who already adopt an opportunist mindset, the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to pause, reflect, reset, and create. For aspiring business leaders and start-ups with an appetite for innovation, it introduced a playground of opportunity.
While outputs are still being seen, what is for certain is the pandemic inspired greater determination in younger generations in three ways:
They re-examined their jobs
Young people were given a chance to re-think their current jobs. For a generation who has often found jobs because they “have to” rather than by choice, this breathing space provided the opportunity to ask themselves intentional questions, such as “What do I want to be doing?” and “Why do I want to be doing it?”
For those inspired young leaders, some were able to find and create something meaningful, through business ventures.
They started a business
When we consider the environment that younger gens grew up in – which raised a generation of over-achievers – being forced to ‘do nothing’ was never going to gel. Two thought patterns eventuated.
Fuelled by losing jobs, internal pressure, and guilt, the pandemic initially sparked young people into a flurry of “what can we do” activities: setting up a business one of those.
However, the pandemic also inspired innovation: solutions were (and are) needed and young leaders have been able and willing to step up and face the challenges. Leveraging extra time on their hands, or riding the wave of inspiration, young business leaders have been able to grow a business.
Moving into 2021 and as things return to “normal”, it is likely we will see the “pandemic businesses” fade. But for those young business leaders who invested – pursuing pathways of innovation – this is where we’ll see growth and exciting developments emerge.
They rethought the workplace
While younger generations have advocated for flexible workplaces for years, the pandemic forced businesses online. While initially we may see employees wanting to go back to the office for social interaction, for younger generations who harbour the value of flexibility, it is unlikely this ‘want’ will continue. In fact, it is likely that we will continue to see trends where younger generations will want to avoid the “corporate rat race” including having to commute long hours, work in a large office and for long hours. Not just because of the ability of technology, but because of having asked themselves the question, “Before we race back to our old lives, is that what I want to be racing back to?”
For those young business leaders and innovative start-ups, we will expect to see the status quo of the traditional workplace – and traditional ways of doing business – continuing to be challenged.
2021 will continue to be a year of change and fresh opportunities. As part of this, we will continue to see the growth in younger entrepreneurs and their businesses.
Jacqueline Cripps, Management Consultant and CEO, JCL