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The Pandemic as a Gift and an Opportunity

  May 8, 2020

You read that right, is there a silver lining in the crisis? It is a fact that we are in a very challenging period as individuals and businesses alike as we try to adjust to the new operating environment. This has resulted in focusing on staying afloat, which leaves little to no room for identifying the opportunities presented by the crisis.

The term lockdown has become part and parcel of our day to day vocabulary, whether it is used to mean the closure of international borders, county borders, or minimized physical interactions, as a mitigating measure taken by governments and companies against the COVID 19 global pandemic ravaging the world. This has led to an unprecedented economic downturn through disrupted global supply chains, closed markets, reduced business as well as the negative socio-economic impact such as stress, increased cases of domestic violence, financial insecurity, disrupted access to healthcare, among others.

Businesses have instituted a raft of measures such as redundancies, unpaid leave, pay cuts among other measures in a bid to remain afloat during this indefinite season of reduced or no revenue. The question remains how do businesses and individuals recover from this crisis?

According to Shirzad Charmine Stanford Lecturer, we have two different brains, the survivor brain, and the positive intelligence brain.  The survivor brain region is tasked with survival which activates your saboteurs (your invisible agents of self-sabotage) to respond to challenges. This results in anxiety, negative emotions, unhappiness, and in the end, tunnel vision. The positive intelligence brain is where the sage (your original true self) resides. When you activate this region, you tap into the great powers of empathy, curiosity, creativity, and in the end fearless, clear-headed, laser-focused action.

With the current situation, it is easy to get into self-sabotage mode finding fault with ourselves for not being adequately prepared for a crisis, the government and other international bodies for not doing enough to stop the pandemic and in the process miss out on the gift and opportunity that the pandemic provides hence making the outcome of an already bad situation a tragedy.

We have all watched in shock and dismay as businesses that were being propelled by borderless economies, thriving regional and international trade face sharp revenue declines and some even halt operations altogether in the face of the pandemic, case in point being businesses in tourism and hospitality businesses. For Instance, several hotels among them Serena Hotels in Kenya and Tanzania, Ole – Sereni Hotel, Dusit D2 Nairobi, Enashipai Resort, and Spa issued a temporary closure notice in the month of March 2020.

Can we rise from the ashes and the aftermath of this global pandemic even stronger and better than when it all began?

We have the power to weaken our saboteurs and activate the positive intelligence brain, which allows us to extend empathy to ourselves and others whom we hold responsible for the pandemic or the failure to do enough. We need to explore with deep curiosity the new environment we have found ourselves in, innovate creative options to the challenges posed by the pandemic, navigate among the creative options, choose the best option and finally take bold, fearless action that is not reactive but a well-calculated move that will ensure individuals and businesses not only survive the pandemic but thrive in it.

What are some of the gifts and opportunities that lie in this crisis?

  1. Time to evaluate whether our businesses are growing sustainably: in terms of revenue, processes, reserves, profitability, expansion model, and staff wellbeing.
  2. Assess the business technology muscle to support remote operations.
  3. Re-invent business models to adapt to the changing environment and consumer behaviors. For instance, home delivery to customers who used to patronize restaurants.
  4. Enhance business continuity plans for the global supply chains that support businesses. For instance, Export Processing Zone Kenya is currently producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that were previously imported.
  5. Re-evaluate the sources of production process inputs that meet the necessary quality standards and are cheaper than imported ones. For instance, Kenya has relied on costly imported liquid nitrogen a critical gas component for storage of semen for livestock artificial insemination, a lot of farmers have been forced to look locally to the industries that had come up in the recent years prior the pandemic but had not become a supplier of choice.
  6. Explore new lines of business with the same machinery and technology. For instance, the partnership between EABL and Haco industries to manufacture and distribute hand sanitizer, Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) sewing face masks, Kenya Airways sewing face masks and converting passenger planes into cargo planes, Strathmore University offering academic and executive education programmes online in place of face to face programmes among others.
  7. Evaluate priorities at an individual level and define what truly matters. Hone dormant skill sets that will open new, better opportunities now and in the future.

Like an eagle that goes through a painful renewal period to give it a new lease of life, this crisis offers an opportunity at a personal and organizational level for a new lease of life through strengthening our sage muscle and weakening our saboteurs.


Charmine, Shirzad, Positive Intelligence: Why 20% of teams and individuals achieve their true potential and how you can achieve yours. Austin: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016.

Article by: MUNYI Eddah, Director Executive Education & Executive Coach, Strathmore University Business School

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