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Think of Others or Die

The COVID-19 pandemic has awakened companies to the importance of having a Shared Purpose

The world has changed. Definitively. For everyone. Even for Clorox, which cannot supply the world with disinfectant. And if Clorox has a problem, we can only imagine what happens to everyone else. There is no link between the world before the pandemic and the one that awaits us in the future. There is no telling what it will look like yet, because we are still falling.

How we relate to the present has also changed. The codes that used to organize life around the market have been shattered. The payment chain is broken. Those who provide services and sell products do not know if they are useful or whether they can pay their costs or the rent. No one knows where they stand. There are no certainties.

With all this, there is virtually no difference between brands and consumers, sellers and buyers, companies and employees. There are only people who need to care about other people. It is a matter of survival. No sales push will do, unless you have a supply of respirators.

Generating engagement with empathy and humanity is one of the few things that companies can do right now. And these are a few ways to do it:

Through comforting: like Louis Vuitton did, sending an inspirational message on Chinese social media saying that journeys always resume after a pause. Many other businesses have been doing the same, through social networks, both inside and outside of their companies.
With acts of kindness: like Guinness, which announced it will donate more than a million dollars for bartenders in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Or like Pronovias, a Spanish bridal wear brand that is donating wedding dresses to the country’s healthcare staff.
Moving into the virtual world: like hundreds of shows, restaurants and supermarkets, which are now offering essential products and services virtually, and as millions of companies have done, with all their staff now working remotely.
Helping people pass the time: like Ikea, which gives advice on how to organize the house while we are all locked up in our homes.
Helping alleviate stress: like Crossfit and Peloton, which are giving free virtual workout sessions.

This pandemic is showing us how to do true engagement: by thinking of others. The crisis is mainstreaming the need to connect with employees, clients, shareholders and society through a Shared Purpose - something that today's most successful companies, including Google, Apple or Tesla, already do.

A Shared Purpose is the intersection between our personal interest and the interest of others. It is going beyond what I want to do; it is the space where what I want to do converges with what others also want. In today's hyperconnected world, the only way to achieve engagement is from that common place, that is to say, from a Shared Purpose.

This reality has become much more urgent since the beginning of this pandemic, because we are all affected and because we are still in free fall. This week alone, we expect record numbers of people to become newly infected in many countries.

What’s more, nobody knows how long it will take to hit rock bottom. And we cannot plan how to rebuild businesses until we know the extent of the damage, both human and economic.

Today, being supportive is the only choice. And, when we finally reach the bottom, we will come out with a lesson learned by fire: we are nothing without others.

Sergio Roitberg is the president of Newlink and author of Expuestos: Las Nuevas Reglas del Mundo Transparente. (Exposed: The New Rules of the Transparent World)

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