Reinvent Yourself During a Crisis

CNN.com released a story on how birds that adapt and innovate are less likely to become extinct. The story cites how crows intentionally drop nuts onto roads so cars can crack open the shells and how herons use bait to catch fish. It is wildly creative. Humans are no different, especially with our professional capabilities and careers. 

In times of crisis, and in the longer times after a crisis, nothing is ever the same. Our world permanently changes. We change

I remember before 9/11 sitting at the terminal gate with family members before they walked onto a plane. I remember being able to see into the cockpit and marveling at the dashboard control panel and the pilots flying the plane. No one could have predicted these seemingly simple things would change forever. 

Like birds, as our environment changes, we must pick a path. Will we go down the road of sitting on the sidelines watching the game unfold?  Or will we get in the game, change how we play and push to win, push to stay relevant and push to avoid extinction? 

In the products and technology world we have been growing more accustomed to change over the decades. Servers change, the cloud changes, mobile changes and programming languages change. One of my favorite widgets is the Stack Overflow trend chart. In 2016 angular.js was all the rage. By the time you learned it and implemented it, it was already irrelevant, replaced by reactjs (thank you Facebook ☹).

But what about You? Your skills? Competencies? Experiences? Career? How are you changing through the COVID-19 crisis? Where do you need to reinvest & reinvent yourself?

Let’s learn from birds!…

  • Herons adapt to use bait to catch fish

What tools (digital and analog) do you need to adapt to or start using? Maybe it’s a new pen and paper system. Maybe it’s online collaboration tools: Slack, MS Teams or Discord. Maybe it’s improved ways to communicate? Presentation skills or video recording and editing skills?  Podcasting?

  • Carrion crows dropping nuts onto roads so passing cars crack open their shells

How can you tap into a broader team or network? There are things other people can do better than us. We need to approach the work without ego. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses can help us drive greater results through the power of a diverse team. In Team of Teams Stanly McChrystal describes several ways an organizational level team is better than fragmented teams, working as a connected network toward a common goal. 

  • Great cormorants timing their fishing periods in New Zealand to take advantage of currents generated by commercial ferries

Timing is everything. And it’s not just speed. Bragging about releasing product updates multiple times a day is worthless if your customer-base does NOT want multiple releases a day, or if it breaks a slower technology dependency. It’s more important to understand the overall ecosystem and make better decisions on timing. Work WITH the flow, not against it. Product flow is the result of interconnecting many independent sub-systems into one larger system that benefits customers. If you are a product leader, interconnected Goal-Oriented Roadmaps are one way to better time your releases. Fast is not always the answer. Timing is. 

As we all continue to cope and navigate this crisis, I encourage you to bet on yourself. You can reinvent yourself through adapting to your environment and innovating. Yes, it’s hard. None of this is easy. Believe in yourself and know three things:

  1. You CAN do difficult work
  2. You CAN get through hard times
  3. You have the right amount of creativity and resourcefulness to adapt

You got this!

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