How brands can manage risk during COVID-19 and beyond

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We interview risk expert Dr Gav Schneider about how brands can navigate and recover from a crisis like COVID-19.

Tash Rothnagel

As the CEO of the Risk 2 Solution Group, Dr Gav Schneider helps brands assess risks and work through difficult situations. Here, Dr Gav talks about how brands can navigate a crisis like COVID-19 and come out better than before. 

How can brands and businesses learn to adapt during this period of uncertainty?

While we feel like we are stuck in uncertainty, this is probably the new normal. If you look at Australia – we’ve gone from droughts and bushfires to COVID-19 to what is certainly going to be a very difficult economic time. The challenge we face now is that there probably won't be an old normal. It's unlikely we'll go back to what we had before COVID-19. But there are lots of positives.

The first thing we need to consider is what could be good and better about the new normal? It doesn’t necessarily have to be negatively slanted. At the moment everyone is just thinking about COVID-19. But who knows what the next challenge will be? We need to be thinking and developing capability skills and approaches that enable us to cope with whatever gets thrown at us in an effective way.

How can businesses innovate and lead through COVID-19?

Focus less on systems and more on rebuilding people so that they can function in complex and chaos environments. COVID-19 has changed how everyone views the workplace. It’s actually enabled people to realise “hold on, I actually can set up my work-from-home structure even if I don’t have IT support.” And “I can get stuff done even if HR isn’t available or my safety manager isn’t coming to check in on me.”

The first part actually starts at the individual level. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a business owner, adviser, consultant or creative – you’ve got to start thinking about what you do, how you do it, why you do it and what motivates you to do it. Reinforcing those things will help you work through the current situation. 

What are some common mistakes businesses make when responding to an unexpected crisis like COVID-19?

By definition, a crisis is something that we couldn't fathom occurring. This is not the first time the world has faced a pandemic and we've become so reliant on other people looking after us – like the government taking care of us – that when it does happen, it does form crisis.

There are three things that kick in when you feel threatened – you either fight, flee or freeze. All three are pretty bad for business and pretty bad for leaders who need to make decisions. Step one is to learn how to control your own adrenal response so that you are able to function (devoting your spare time to hobbies and things that relax you is a good way to calm your mind and curb impulsive, fearful behaviour). 

Do you have any advice for businesses or brands that are struggling in the current climate?

The starting point for recovery is to first stop and look around and make sure that whatever effort and energy you're going to be putting into your bounce back is actually still relevant. It's much easier to pivot when you're getting ready to bounce back once you have already done a pathway. For example, if I was a restaurant that relied on people coming in to eat and I'd spent quite a lot of time building up my takeaway and delivery capability to counter COVID-19, then I shouldn't do away with that just because people are going to start dining in again.  

Not everybody is good at being ready for recovery, but everybody should be thinking about what they can do to make sure they're able to thrive in the new normal.

Dr Gavriel (Gav) Schneider is the CEO of the Risk 2 Solution Group. He is an acknowledged business leader and specialist in the field of human-based risk management and the psychology of risk. He is also the author of two books including the ASIS-nominated Can I See Your Hands, as well as numerous academic and advisory articles.

Interview by Tash Rothnagel, account manager

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