What Covid Taught Me About Business and Personal Brand
Can covid help improve our business models and our personal brands? Absolutely!
Some speculate that a Covid-19 booster will become a part of the annual flu cocktail that many people receive every fall. Yes, that means around October 2022 we’ll all be asked to return to the neighbourhood pharmacy and get another round of vaccine. While the great pharmaceuticals in ever-wider distribution right now should protect most people from the nastiest impacts of Covid-19, the virus is already mutating. To date, three major mutations of the virus have come alongside the dominant strain, causing novel symptoms among a significant swath of population. This is what viruses do, of course. They get to know their hosts and they constantly change their composition when threatened by natural and artificial defense measures. They are genetically programmed to survive. That’s why they’ve been around for millennia and will be around long after us.
Covid-19, like all viruses, plays the infinite game. It’s not spreading across the planet to destroy humanity. It just wants to be around for longer than we’re around. Don’t take it personally. In his influential book Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse writes, “An infinite game is defined as known and unknown players, the rules are changeable, and the objective is not to win—the objective is to keep playing, keep perpetuating the game.” Carse’s work has been used to explain the outcomes of wars, the resilience of virus, and the viability of business models. Consider the implications here. A year fighting Covid-19, a menace designed to flourish against all odds, may inadvertently offer us all some wisdom on how to retrofit our organizations to prosper over the long run. Perhaps we can also apply this wisdom to our personal brands. Are you ready to play the infinite game?
Know Your Audience
The virus got to know us at the molecular level, adapting to us so that it could continue to survive. Organizations engaged in the infinite war know far more about their audience than their rivals, and will constantly tweak vision, mission, and goals as the audience changes. If you want to stay in the game as your competitors falter, you must know your audience much better than your competitors. What does your audience need from your organization? From you? How have those needs changed over time? What may be important to your audience years from now that is not important today? Ask questions. Listen to your audience. Worry less about what the competitor is doing.
Stick to the Longview
Virologists are always interested in determining a virus’ level of contagiousness. If a virus has an extremely low level, it will spread too slowly to survive. If the level is extremely high, hosts may get sick so quickly that they’re not well enough to leave a location and spread the virus. Covid-19 found a sweet spot in the middle.
In the business world, we’ve all come across low level of “contagious” organizations that never garnered enough interest among consumers to move into the profit column. We’ve also encountered businesses that offered a high-demand product or service on the frontend but had nothing to offer beyond the initial success. Organizations and individuals engaged in the infinite game find the sweet spot in the middle. While it’s important to remain relevant to consumers in real time, it’s absolutely necessary to always ask, “What’s next?”
Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
This is probably the most important facet of the infinite game: adaptation. Viruses have been on the planet for billions of years because they constantly adapt to changing environments. Our organizations, and our personal brands for that matter, must adapt. Adaptation is always an amalgam of knowing the audience and having an eye toward the future. When was the last time you rented a film from a video store? Exactly.
None of us want a redo of the pandemic year. The good news? Maybe we learned some things from our adversary, Covid-19. The virus isn’t interested in defeating us, it just wants to stay in the game. Applying infinite game principles in our finite world, we’ll keep our businesses and brands in the conversation long after others have played their last hands.