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Chatper 3 To touch or not to touch is the question, literally and figuratively

4 minute read

Social distancing was the right thing to do to break the chain because of the pre-symptomatic virality of the COVID-19 virus.

You never know who is a carrier, so why take a chance?

Even when the situation comes back to near normalcy and the COVID-19 becomes history, the long-term damage done by the “the reason for social distancing” is near-irreversible for the foreseeable future.

When you meet a friend, the question that would run in your mind used to be:

“Should I give them a hug or not?”

Now the question is:

“Should I touch them or keep my distance?”

In the middle of the COVID-19 season, at one end was self-quarantine and at the other, maintaining a distance of at least six feet. No handshakes.

What would be a few implications of just this one behavior change?

At the outset, it looks like we can replace the handshake by a fist bump, a bow, a high-five, a toe bump, an elbow bump or the traditional Namaste from the East.

That would be trivializing and diluting the problem.

Here are a few areas where you could see an impact. (in no particular order)

Businesses which run on crowds will be completely reinvented. A few examples are conferences, sporting events, music festivals, trade shows, company gatherings, large-scale, in-person training programs, and large religious gatherings to name a few.

This seems like the first order problem.

The second order derivatives of this problem is how it will impact the entire ecosystem and cottage industry that is dependent on the event industry. Let’s double-click on that and see who it affects:

  • Hotels that host these events and the attendees
  • Event organizers who put these events together
  • Catering services that supply food for these events
  • Speakers who make money through keynotes and other speeches
  • Sound system providers for the events
  • Videographers and photographers for the events
  • Travel to and fro to the city where the event is happening and within the city
  • Travel agents who manage travel for executives who are attending the events
  • Restaurants around the location of the events
  • Mom and pop shops that serve the needs of travelers
  • Travel-related goods starting with travel gear to grooming kits
  • Businesses that pay lots of money to operate stores in airports hoping for foot traffic
  • Travel insurance companies
  • Airport car rentals
  • Books and magazines that used to get a boost during travel
  • Hotel entertainment networks
  • Software and hardware providers who manage events smoothly
  • Entertainers and artists that depend on performing at events
  • Tourist hotspots around the city where events are happening
  • House sharing services such as AirBnB

If you and I discuss this topic, I am confident that we both will come up with at least 25 more businesses that will get impacted just from this one human behavior change.

The above list is just an example to show the vicious downward spiral of things to come. If you are not in any of the above businesses, it would be naive to assume that the after effects won’t impact you. Everyone on this planet will be affected either directly or indirectly.

It is not if, but when your turn will come to pay the price in some way.

Touch me not

Then there is another kind of touch me not phenomenon that can happen. You would have seen cartoons where they show someone in a work-from-home situation. He is on video, fully dressed for business from the waist up but with shorts and flip flops from the waist down.

While this is funny, one could really get away with that kind of setup.

Think about it. If you are primarily working from home, the number of clothes you will buy will be far less than what you would have bought otherwise.

I was talking to a friend who jokingly said he still gets half a dozen emails about clothing items while the entire state was under a lockdown for a few weeks already. He said, “Raj, what am I going to do with all the new clothes they want me to buy? I’ve been in my pajamas and t-shirts for the last few weeks!”

This slump in shopping can easily extend to other related areas.

I was in a group discussion in one of the masterminds I belong to. A small business entrepreneur was sharing that her entire pipeline for the next six months vanished within a couple of weeks. She is in the wedding business. A total of 15 weddings were either cancelled or postponed and the new dates were not yet set.

Then the negative impact continues with select stores closing, needing less supply, affecting the factories down the chain.

Well, what could you do?

First, there is a real need to stop, reflect, and take an inventory of all your current skills and talents that you deployed to create meaningful value in the past.

Second, honestly assess which of those skills and talents can continue to be deployed to create value in the post-COVID world.

Third, after that gap analysis, think about what new skills you need to acquire rapidly so that you can continue to create meaningful value.

Fourth, reinvent to get ready.

Now, let’s just look at a few implications of the latest buzzword, social distancing in the next chapter.

Suggestions for your “To Think” List

  • What are the second order effects on my work because of the effects of COVID (and people not being able to meet as usual)

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© 2005 - 2020 Rajesh Setty.