The Age of Accelerating Strategy Breakthroughs


Four strategies the most swift-footed and durable companies are leveraging to break through the unknown.

John Romeo, Hanna Moukanas, and Greg Rung

6 min read

Editor's Note: This content is part of Oliver Wyman's ongoing series about the evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Below is a summarized article authored by Oliver Wyman that was first published in MIT Sloan Management Review/Oliver Wyman on July 30, 2020.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the greater workforce, organizational possibilities are beginning to emerge out of the crisis. Offices went virtual. The food industry made pickup and delivery mainstream. Telehealth became commonplace. Personal protective equipment and ventilators were pushed out fast. In short, a new age of acceleration is emerging, and decisions that once took years must now be made in mere weeks, as "business as usual" proceeds at a pace once perhaps considered impossible. A world where things are done faster is reality and one that's now becoming expected.

According to our recent conversations with top chief executives about a better future, companies that are most adaptable in a crisis and most likely to bounce back pursue four key strategies: 

1. Prioritize people. This strategy is about building solidarity, communicating with empathy, implementing creative cultural measures that attract and retain talent, and empowering those around you.

As a chief operating officer told us, “A gap will widen between those companies able to motivate and mobilize their employees post-COVID, and those who fail miserably at it.”

2. Make megatrends matter. This strategy is about identifying new threats and opportunities, building resilience to safeguard profits, being bold enough to reset your strategy, and ensuring leadership teams versus the business unit or risk department are measuring and analyzing the impact of megatrends.

“The economics of profit are not always compatible with the economics of resilience,” one chief executive said, “but we are discovering that our economics are no longer based on sustainable fundamentals.”

3. Build resilience to accelerated change. This strategy is about considering what happens when megatrends combine and grow quickly, identifying often overlooked connections, doubling down on core capabilities, and collaborating more with those who you compete with.

Over 40 million people nationwide lost their jobs since the start of coronavirus-triggered shutdowns in March. This undid more than a decade of job growth.

In light of news like this, companies are trying to operate with less complexity and more visibility into the control of their operations.

4. Champion multistakeholder capitalism. This strategy is about championing for sustainability and asking what your company can do for society.

These shifts will spark a new wave of new companies — ones with greater chances of thriving amidst the unknown, and ones who work to understand why they do what they do. Big corporate names will keep empowering their workers to align their actions around a unified goal, not just in the near-term but in the long-term, too. They will respond to megatrends and will recalibrate quickly while doing so. Through partnerships, they will expand beyond traditional business lines. They will improve their performance in alignment with broader environmental, societal, and regulatory metrics.

Huge innovation and large breakthroughs are necessary for the global economy to thrive in the future. Those companies that make forward-thinking decisions so they can remain malleable and adapt to change as it comes while embracing invention will be on the frontlines of change.

Said one chief executive, "Ironically, the longer the crisis lasts, the more seriously we will be forced to transform into more sustainable businesses."

For a more in-depth look at these strategies, read the full version of this article here: "The Age of Accelerating Strategy Breakthroughs."

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