What “The Princess Bride” Teaches About the Corporate Innovation Experience

What “The Princess Bride” Teaches About the Corporate Innovation Experience

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post using quotes from “Moneyball” (the movie, not the book) to describe the experience of trying to innovate within a corporate setting.

It was great fun to write, I received tons of feedback, and had many fascinating conversations (plus a fact check on the year the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino), so I started searching for other movies that inadvertently but accurately describe the journey of corporate innovators.

The Princess Bride

If you have not seen The Princess Bride, stop reading and immediately go watch it.  Seriously, there is nothing more important for you to do right now than to crawl out from the cultural rock you’ve been under since 1987 and watch this movie.

If you’re reading this, you’ve clearly watched the movie and know that it is packed with life lessons and quotable quotes.  It also captures the reality of innovation within the walls of large companies

The Beginning

“You keep using that word.  I don’t think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya

A company’s focus on Innovation usually begins the moment a senior executive, usually the CEO, declares it to be a key strategic priority and promises Wall Street analysts that significant investments will be made.

It then trickles down to business units and functions, with each subsequent layer told to “be more innovative” and “come up with more innovation.”

Then, one day, the responsibility for innovation lands in someone’s lap and stays there.  To be honest, it’s usually an exciting day for the person because they’ve been asking questions, suggesting ideas, and pushing for innovation for a long time, and now the powers that be have permitted them to do something about it.  They may even have been given a title and budget specific for innovation.

But “innovation” was never defined.

The CEO may think it is an entirely new business, something flashy and new that rivals anything coming out of Silicon Valley.

The Business Unit and Functional Heads may think it’s a new product or technology, something just different enough from the current business to be newsworthy but not so different that it changes how things are done.

And the new Innovation owner thinks it’s new ideas, lots of brainstorming sessions, and networking with entrepreneurs and startups.

Without alignment as to what “innovation” means and what it needs to deliver, the stage is set for misalignment, frustration, and ultimately failure.  Al because that word, “Innovation,” does not mean what you think it means.

The Middle

“We’ll never survive.” – Buttercup, the Princess Bride

“Nonsense, you’re only saying that because nobody ever has.” – Westley

Let’s imagine for a moment that a common definition and set of expectations for innovation is established and everyone up and down the corporate hierarchy is in agreement (this actually does happen, but it takes effort).

The innovation owner has a clear mandate and is hard at work building an innovation pipeline – they’re having lots of qualitative interviews to build customer empathy, they’re facilitating brainstorming sessions to get ideas, they’re building prototypes to get customer feedback.  Most importantly, they’re sharing their work with anyone who will listen, asking for feedback, and building supporters and champions.

And then, the chorus begins.

“This will never work”

“You’ll never get approval for that”

“If we do that, we’ll lose customers”

“If you do that, you’ll be fired.”

In these moments, the dark seeds of doubt are planted.  The innovation owner must dig deep, reminding themselves that people are only saying those things because it hasn’t worked yet, no one got approval yet, customers haven’t yet weighed in, and you haven’t tried to do that yet.

After all, just because something has never been done, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

The End

“Thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject.  While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it.” – Buttercup, the Princess Bride

Let’s be honest, most corporate innovation efforts don’t result in the world-changing, life-affirming successes we hop for. Innovators are, by nature and necessity, an optimistic bunch so when things don’t work out as we hope, it hurts. It hurts as much as a paper cut with lemon juice poured on it.

But there is one truth that cuts across all attempts at corporate innovation, no matter whether the journey ends with wild success in the form of massive business growth, happy success in the form of new products and revenue streams, satisfying success in the form of improvements and greater efficiencies, or bitter disappointment because nothing changes and everyone goes on to old or new jobs.

“I supposed you think you’re brave, don’t you?” – Vizzini

“Only compared to some.”Buttercup, the Princess Bride

Those who took on the work and responsibility of innovation are brave.

Not only compared to some but compared to most. 

It takes guts to try something new.  To ask questions.  To challenge the status quo.  To continue seeking a yes amongst a thousand no’s. To put your reputation, your bonus, and maybe even your job on the line.

And that’s what corporate innovators need to remember – that whatever happens, they were brave.  They worked hard, they battled the odds, they did make change happen.  Even if it was only how they see and understand the world.  Even if it only to get smarter and stronger and prepare for the next time they are called upon to drive change.

Because in that moment, innovators must be ready to say “As you wish.”

Why Companies Need Salmon Ladders to Achieve Their Growth Goals

Why Companies Need Salmon Ladders to Achieve Their Growth Goals

“You are a salmon.”

This was not the career advice I hoped for.

After months of tests, quizzes, career counseling sessions, and peer support groups, I was sitting in the expansive wood-paneled office of Harvard Business School’s Head of Career Services, eagerly anticipating learning what my ideal career would be.  I did not expect to be told that I was a fish.

“You are only happy when you are rebelling against something.  You are a salmon.  Whatever you choose to do, you must swim upstream.”

This did not sound like a recipe for the peaceful, easy, frictionless career that I envisioned.  This sounded like a career of frustration, struggle, and just generally being annoyed most of the time. 

It was 100% accurate.

Innovators are salmon

Quick tutorial on salmon – they hatch in freshwater, swim out to the ocean and live in the saltwater before returning to freshwater to spawn and die (assuming the don’t get caught by a bear or fisherman first).

Quick tutorial on innovators – they are born (like everyone else) with creativity and a sense of unlimited possibility, they go out into the world and face the sting of reality before returning to their natural creative state to ask questions, challenge the status quo, drive growth, and (like everyone else) die.

Swimming upstream is exhausting for fish and for people.  That’s why most don’t do it.  That’s why most fish and people make the sensible choice to go with the flow, work within the system, and find better ways to do the same things.

But innovators, like salmon, instinctively know that to create, they must follow a different and much harder path.  Instead of going with the flow, they must question the status quo.  Instead of finding a better way to do the same things, they question whether those things even need to be done and create new ways to do new things.

Companies recognize that they need innovators.  They need people who think differently and aren’t afraid to take smart risks because these are the people that will create new revenue streams and drive companies’ long-term growth.  But, like the river, the company can’t change how it operates.

Companies need salmon ladders

Quick tutorial on salmon ladders – they are structures on or around natural barriers like waterfalls and dams, that have a high enough water velocity to attract the fish but not so much as to exhaust them, and often have very low steps that the salmon can leap up to get to their destination

Quick tutorial on innovation processes – they are structures separate from companies’ existing processes (and the barriers that often slow progress), that allow enough freedom for creativity and experimentation but not so much as to put the company at serious risk, and often have steps or stages that innovators and their projects must leap up in order to launch a scalable business.

Salmon ladders help salmon progress more rapidly and efficiently, decreasing the odds that they die from exhaustion before reaching their destination.  Innovation processes help innovators progress ideas more rapidly and efficiently through an organization, decreasing the odds that they die (or quit, or get fired) before reaching their destination.

How to build a salmon ladder for innovators

Google “innovation process” and you will get 1.8 BILLION results in 0.59 seconds. That’s because there is no one magic innovation process that works for everyone. 

But as varied as effective innovation processes are, they share common characteristics.

  1. People over process.  If you announce the implementation of a new process, send out a user manual, and then walk away, the process will fail.  If you involve people in designing and pressure testing the process, support them in the first 6-12 months of use, and they experience the value of the process for themselves, the process will succeed.
  2. Goals are good.  Constraints are better.  Innovation is an investment, and the company expects a return on that investment.  Be clear about those expectations from the start.  Innovation is not “anything goes!”  Be clear about what the company is and is not willing to support before your start.
  3. Guidance, not direction.   Innovation is filled with known unknowns and unknown unknowns and, for that reason, the path to launch isn’t a straight line.  But it also can’t be an infinite loop.  Innovation processes should set guardrails for the work to be done but shouldn’t be overly prescriptive.
  4. Insights, not information.  Innovation processes should enable learning and encourage its sharing.  Building in time for teams to reflect on their experience and write down their insights is critical for continued growth.  Weighing the team down with detailed analyses, complicated templates, and constant update presentations doesn’t enable and encourage learning, it slows it down.
  5. Celebrate milestones, not just launches.  More innovation projects will be stopped than will be launched.  The stopped projects aren’t failures, they’re lessons learned and steppingstones to the next big launch.  Celebrating the milestones that projects achieve, even the milestone of being stopped, will keep innovators energized and swimming upstream far longer than celebrating only the launches.

Innovators do the hard work of swimming upstream. 
Help them out by building a process to guide and propel them.

After all, as one of my favorite poems points out,

If you move with the crowd, you’ll get no further than the crowd

Simply swimming with the tide leaves you nowhere.

So if you believe in something that’s good, honest, and bright – stand up for it.

Maybe your peers will get smart and drift your way

The Four Horsemen of the Innovation Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Innovation Apocalypse

The Horsemen are drawing nearer

On leather steeds they ride

They’ve come to take your life

On through the dead of night

With The Four Horsemen ride

Or choose your fate and die

– “The Four Horsemen” by Metallica

No scene from The Bible’s description of the Apocalypse has captured the popular imagination as much as that of the Four Horsemen.  In Revelation 6, four beings are summoned, each riding out on a different colored horse – Conquest on a white horse, followed by War on a red horse, Famine on a black horse, and, finally, Death on a pale horse.

“The Four Horsemen” has been used as an analogy to describe everyone from Notre Dame football players to Supreme Court Justices, and referenced in books for everything from dealing with addiction to relationship counseling.

There are also Four Horsemen that foretell the end of innovation in a company

The White Horse: Short Term-ism

Like Conquest, Short Term-ism wears a crown and is hailed as a bringer of victory, prosperity, and health.  After all, the only thing better than hitting your quarterly numbers is hitting them two quarters in a row.  Then three, then four…

Short term-ism convinces you that the good times are here to stay if you just keep investing in today.  Anxious to continue reaping immediate rewards and blind to the fact that it will end someday, executives dedicate more and more financial resources to short-term initiatives, reducing and ultimately killing long term investments

The Red Horse: Size

Size matters.  Rulers fight wars to expand their empires.  Executives spend, acquire, and merge to expand theirs.

The result is that an idea, business, or investment that was attractive 5 years ago needs to be 10x the size and 100x the certainty today.  As companies get bigger the size of new products, business models, and revenue streams need to get bigger to move the needle.

I spoke to a CEO recently who lamented that he regularly shuts down ideas for new products because they’re “not big enough.”  The irony, he told me, is that the new product that’s not big enough for today’s business would have doubled the size of the business 7 years ago.

But innovation often starts small, with a single spark, and needs to be incubated and nurtured over (a reasonable amount of) time.  Companies that will only invest in big innovations that produce immediate results, don’t invest in innovation.

The Black Horse: Scarcity

When there’s not enough to go around, you have a famine.  It can be food and water, or money and time.  It can be real or perceived.  It is always deadly.

We live and work in environments of scarce resources.  Even the biggest companies don’t have infinite amounts of time, money, and people.  That means that $1 spent on innovation (something new that creates value) is $1 NOT spent on the certainty of today’s business.

Trade-offs are a part of life.  The problem is when trade-offs stop being seen as choices we make to achieve the best possible outcome, and start to become us-versus-them battles.

The result is corporate cage matches in which a small band of innovators must battle powerful business unit owners and influential functional heads for scarce resources.  Spoiler alert, innovators rarely emerge victoriously.

The Pale Horse: Fear

Corporate innovators can survive short-term-ism, size requirements, and scarcity.  They can’t survive fear.

Rarely is it their own fear – of failure, humiliation, or unemployment – that stops them.  It is the fear that senior executives have of poor results, losing customers, no bonuses, and, yes, failure, humiliation, and unemployment.

Like Revelation’s depiction of Death as empty-handed and followed by Hades, its jaws open to receive Death’s victims, Innovation’s apocalyptic Pale Horse rider neither shows nor speaks of its fear and is usually followed by HR*, its arms open to welcome innovators into new roles in the core business.

Averting the Apocalypse

Unlike the Biblical Apocalypse, the Innovation Apocalypse can be stopped and even prevented.

To prevent the Innovation Apocalypse, embody the opposite mindsets and behaviors of the Four Horseman:

  • Invest in the long-term and patiently wait for results
  • Invest in things that start small but have the potential to grow
  • Remember that growth isn’t about slicing up the same pie differently, it’s about making the entire pie bigger
  • Confront fear and minimize real risk through experiments, pilots, and other small-scale tests

Of course, all of this is easier said than done.

The reality is that the Four Horsemen are already running rampant in most organizations.  The only way to stop them from ushering in the Apocalypse is to confront them.

This takes guts.

It’s not easy or risk-free to challenge, however politely, a senior executives’ decisions that prioritize the short-term over the long-term, big business over small, preservation of resources over investment, and certainty over the unknown.

You may need to set-up a one-on-one conversation.  You may need to pull someone in as an ally or messenger.  You may need to talk to someone with the hopes that they can talk to the decision-maker.

But if you don’t speak up, the Horsemen will ride roughshod over your business and the Innovation Apocalypse will come.

* To be very clear, I am NOT equating HR to Hades.  I love HR.  They have a very important and very difficult job, and they are woefully under-appreciated.  They also have the misfortune of being the people who show up immediately after an innovation initiate gets shut down with the task of picking up, reallocating, or separating the people left behind.  Which, unfortunately, makes them a great element for this analogy.

Moneyball and the Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation

Moneyball and the Beginning, Middle, and End of Innovation

Last week, pitchers and catchers reported to MLB Spring Training facilities in Florida and Arizona.  For baseball fans, this is the first sign of Spring, an occasion that heralds months of warmth and sunshine, ballparks filled (hopefully) with cheering fans, dinners of beers and brats, and the undying belief that this year will be the year.

Of course, there’s still a lot of dark, dreary cold between now and Opening Day.  Perfect weather for watching baseball movies – Bull Durham, Major League, The Natural, Field of Dreams, and, of course, Moneyball.

Moneyball is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis and chronicles the 2002 Oakland Athletics season.  The ’02 Oakland A’s, led by General Manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), forever changed baseball by adopting an approach that valued rigorous statistical analysis over the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (coaches, scouts, front office personnel) when building a team.  This approach, termed “Moneyball,” enabled the A’s to reach the postseason with a team that cost only $44M in salary, compared to the NY Yankees that spent $125M to achieve the same outcome.

While the whole movie (and book) is a testament to the courage and perseverance required to challenge and change the status quo, time and again I come back to three lines that perfectly sum up the journey of every successful intrapreneur I’ve ever met.

The Beginning

I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall…he always gets bloody…always always gets bloody.  This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. It’s threatening the way they do things… and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins – they have their hands on the switch – they go batshit crazy.”

John Henry, Owner of the Boston Red Sox

Context

The 2002 season is over, and the A’s were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.  John Henry, an owner of the Boston Red Sox, has invited Bill Beane to Boston to offer him the Red Sox GM job. 

Lesson

This is what you sign up for when you decide to be an Intrapreneur.  The more you challenge the status quo, the more you question how business is done, the more you ask Why and demand an answer, the closer you get to “tak(ing) it in the teeth.”

This is why courage, perseverance, and an unshakeable belief that things can and should be better are absolutely essential for intrapreneurs.  Your job is to run at the wall over and over until you get through it.

People will follow.  The Red Sox did.  They won the World Series in 2004, breaking an 84-year-old curse.

The Middle

“It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process”

Bill Beane

Context

Billy has to convince the ballplayers to forget all the habits that made them great and embrace the philosophy of Moneyball.  To stop stealing bases, turning double plays on bunts, and swinging for the fences and to start taking walks, throwing to first for the easy out, and prioritize getting on base over hitting a home run.

The players are confused and frustrated.  Suddenly, everything that they once did right is wrong and what was not valued is deeply prized.

Lesson

Innovation is something new that creates value.  Something new doesn’t just require change, it requires people to stop doing things that work and start doing things that seem strange or even wrong.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not a switch to be flipped.  It’s a process to be learned.  It takes time, practice, reminders, and patience.

The End

“When you get an answer you’re looking for, hang up.”

Billy Beane

Context

In this scene, Billy has offered one of his players to multiple teams, searching for the best deal.  When the phone rings with a deal he likes, he and the other General Manager (GM) agree to it, Billy hangs up.  Even though the other GM was in the middle of a sentence.  When Peter Brand, the Assistant GM played by Jonah Hill, points out that Billy had just hung up on the other GM, Billy responds with this nugget of wisdom.

Lesson

It’s advice intrapreneurs should take very much to heart.  I often see Innovation teams walk into management presentations with long presentations, full of data and projections, anxious to share their progress, and hoping for continued funding and support.  When the meeting starts, a senior exec will say something like, “We’re excited by the progress we’re hearing about and what it will take to continue.” 

That’s the cue to “hang up.”

Instead of starting the presentation from the beginning, start with “what it will take to continue.”  You got the answer you’re looking for – they’re excited about the progress you’ve made – don’t spend time giving them the info they already have or, worse, could raise questions and dim their enthusiasm.  Hang up on the conversation you want to have and have the conversation they want to have.

In closing

Moneyball was an innovation that fundamentally changed one of the most tradition-bound businesses in sports.  To be successful, it required someone willing to take it in the teeth, to coach people through a process, and to hang up when they got the answer they wanted.  It wasn’t easy but real change rarely is.

The same is true in corporations.  They need their own Bill Beanes.

Are you willing to step up to the plate?

3 Insights from an Idea Generation Program that Actually Works!

3 Insights from an Idea Generation Program that Actually Works!

Companies love to invest in idea generation – challenges, hackathons, software platforms to collect and sort submissions.

Companies do not love the ROI of these investments because they require a lot of money and time and the ideas rarely become real and create value.

But one company is doing it right and they are loving the early results.

This morning I chatted with a graduate of the Intrapreneurship Academy that I teach in partnership with The Cable Center.  It was the kind of life-affirming call that consultants rarely get to enjoy, one that is evidence that the work you do matters to both people and businesses.

During the program, he focused on solving a problem related to surfacing ideas within the organization, rather than relying on management to come up with new ideas and initiatives.  As he worked through the innovation process, he found other passionate intrapreneurs and champions within his organization willing to lend their time, energy, and political clout to developing a solution.

In May, the idea generation solution went live.

A mere 6 months later:

  • 20% of the organization submitted ideas
  • 2 ideas, on average, were submitted by each person
  • 60% of submitted ideas were presented to senior leadership
  • ~20% of the ideas submitted were approved for further development
  • 10% of ideas submitted are in the process of being launched

10% of ideas received funding and are being launched! 

VCs would kill for that kind of success rate.

Ahh, but what about ROI?  Launches do not equal market success. Value creation, specifically financial returns, are evidence of market success.

This was all done with $0 investment.

The team used internal resources for everything – existing software platforms and programs, design and marketing talent, and passionate staff and leaders to promote and participate in the program.

3 lessons learned on the path to success

Like all good innovators, the team prioritized moving quickly with “good enough” solutions and learning and adjusting rapidly based on feedback.  Here are three of their top insights:

1. It’s all about People.  People define organizations.  People create ideas.  People motivate and inspire other people. So, if you want to succeed, focus on people.

For example, every person who submits an idea receives personalized feedback about what worked or didn’t and how, if possible, they could make their idea more attractive to the business.  Originally, this feedback was given by email because let’s be honest, it’s a lot more efficient.  But people felt that the feedback was “cold” and felt discouraged and demotivated after reading it.  Now, all feedback is delivered in a quick conversation that feels more personal and leaves people feeling heard and motivated

2. Build a Habit, not an Event.  Early in the design process, the team spoke with a group in another region that was also creating an idea generation program.  The difference was that they were designing it as an annual event (and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy and implement an idea management software platform).

But people don’t have ideas just once a year.  They have ideas all the time.  And the business needs new ideas for revenue generation and cost savings constantly, not just once a year.

So this team designed their program to be on-going – people can submit ideas at any time for feedback, senior management meets once every 1-2 months to review and approve ideas, and teams are started (and ended) based on data, not the calendar.

3. Imperfect Action is more important than Perfect Inaction – “Frameworks are great and really helpful, but….” As my former student’s voice trailed off, I couldn’t help but laugh.  He was trying so hard to be polite, after all, I’m the person who taught him the frameworks, but we both knew that the end of that sentence was, “…you need to actually do things in the real world to know what works.”

Yes, frameworks, theories, templates, best practices, are all useful AS STARTING POINTS.  They reflect what has worked in the past for other companies so, while they can help you avoid common mistakes or accelerate decision-making, they’re not perfect reflections of the current reality of your company and innovation.  To know what will work for your idea, in your company, in your market, in your geography, with your team, and your customers, you need to get off the page and into the real world.

The next challenge – how to scale

With such clear early success, there’s huge demand to expand the program rapidly within the region.  But premature scaling is the death-knell of many innovations.

So, the question facing the team is when and how to expand?

Should they expand laterally, rolling their country’s program out to other countries in the region, or should they expand vertically, moving the program up to be managed at the regional level?

Should they seek to increase participation in their current program, or should they expand their program’s offering to include trainings and challenges?

When should all of this expansion happen?  What should happen first?

The fact that these questions are being asked is a clear sign of success.  While there are no obvious answers, I do not doubt that the team will find them.

The 5 Gifts of Uncertainty

The 5 Gifts of Uncertainty

“How are you doing?  How are you handling all this?”

It seems like 90% of conversations these days start with those two sentences.  We ask out of genuine concern and also out of a need to commiserate, to share our experiences, and to find someone that understands.

The connection these questions create is just one of the Gifts of Uncertainty that have been given to us by the pandemic.

Yes, I know that the idea of uncertainty, especially in big things like our lives and businesses, being a gift is bizarre.  When one of my friends first suggested the idea, I rolled my eyes pretty hard and then checked to make sure I was talk to my smart sarcastic fellow business owner and not the Dali Lama.

But as I thought about it more, started looking for “gifts” in the news and listening for them in conversations with friends and clients, I realized how wise my friend truly was.

Faced with levels of uncertainty we’ve never before experienced, people and businesses are doing things they’ve never imagined having to do and, as a result, are discovering skills and abilities they never knew they had.  These are the Gifts of Uncertainty

  1. Necessity of offering a vision – When we’re facing or doing something new, we don’t have all the answers. But we don’t need all the answers to take action.  The people emerging as leaders, in both the political and business realms, are the ones acknowledging this reality by sharing what they do know, offering a vision for the future, laying out a process to achieve it, and admitting the unknowns and the variables that will affect both the plan and the outcome.
  2. Freedom to experiment – As governments ordered businesses like restaurants to close and social distancing made it nearly impossible for other businesses to continue operating, business owners were suddenly faced with a tough choice – stop operations completely or find new ways to continue to serve. Restaurants began to offer carry out and delivery.  Bookstores, like Powell’s in Portland OR and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester VT, also got into curbside pick-up and delivery game.  Even dentists and orthodontists began to offer virtual visits through services like Wally Health and Orthodontic Screening Kit, respectively.
  3. Ability to change – Businesses are discovering that they can move quickly, change rapidly, and use existing capabilities to produce entirely new products. Nike and HP are producing face shields. Zara and Prada are producing face masks. Fanatics, makers of MLB uniforms, and Ford are producing gowns.  GM and Dyson are gearing up to produce ventilators. And seemingly every alcohol company is making hand sanitizer.  Months ago, all of these companies were in very different businesses and likely never imagined that they could or would pivot to producing products for the healthcare sector.  But they did pivot.
  4. Power of Relationships – Social distancing and self-isolation are bringing into sharp relief the importance of human connection and the power of relationships. The shift to virtual meetups like happy hours, coffees, and lunches is causing us to be thoughtful about who we spend time with rather than defaulting to whoever is nearby.  We are shifting to seeking connection with others rather than simply racking up as many LinkedIn Connections, Facebook friends, or Instagram followers as possible.  Even companies are realizing the powerful difference between relationships and subscribers as people unsubscribed en mass to the “How we’re dealing with COVID-19 emails” they received from every company with which they had ever provided their information.
  5. Business benefit of doing the right thing – In a perfect world, businesses that consistently operate ethically, fairly, and with the best interests of ALL their stakeholders (not just shareholders) in mind, would be rewarded. We are certainly not in a perfect world, but some businesses are doing the “right thing” and rea being rewarded.  Companies like Target are offering high-risk employees like seniors pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems 30-days of paid leave.  CVS and Comcast are paying store employees extra in the form of one-time bonuses or percent increases on hourly wages.  Sweetgreen and AllBirds are donating food and shoes, respectively, to healthcare workers.  On the other hand, businesses that try to leverage the pandemic to boost their bottom lines are being taken to task.  Rothy’s, the popular shoe brand, announced on April 13 that they would shift one-third of their production capacity to making “disposable, non-medical masks to workers on the front line” and would donate five face masks for every item purchased.  Less than 12 hours later, they issued an apology for their “mis-step,” withdrew their purchase-to-donate program, and announced a bulk donation of 100,000 non-medical masks.

Before the pandemic, many of these things seemed impossibly hard, even theoretical.  In the midst of uncertainty, though, these each of these things became practical, even necessary.  As a result, in a few short weeks, we’ve proven to ourselves that we can do what we spent years saying we could not.

These are gifts to be cherished, remembered and used when the uncertainty, inevitably, fades.

Originally published on Mat 19, 2020 on Forbes.com