Economic hopes continue to follow coronavirus social guidance
Broad government mandates focus on stimulating a wider economy, yet countless business models, including Hospitality, depend on balancing subtle nuances — economic, social, environmental and ethical, for instance.
Given that science continues to expose new coronavirus (COVID-19) variables, national response is necessarily limited to a generic reaction, protecting society’s physical and mental well-being while attempting to mitigate economic damage.
And the problems perpetuate: public health congratulates zero tolerance; Hospitality jeers for effective rules. In this performance governments are both hero and villain, and motivated entrepreneurs or visionaries gain the applause.
Liberty versus zero tolerance
Social guidance rebellions coincide with a release from lockdown frustration. Optimists, given a choice, resolve the dilemma with ease: believing the pandemic has, for them, receded. Pessimists, in contrast, consider idealist indulgence a threat to social well-being. And while public opinion remains divided, Hospitality struggles to reunite with loyal patrons.
Rationalists form a consensus favouring cautious reopening, which they hope lessens social and economic hardship. Recovery depends on the learning it offers, leading to understanding and improvement that stabilise fluctuation. Yet everybody faces a universal yearning to grease stationary wheels, releasing lockdown’s brake — balancing public apathy and apprehension is Hospitality’s challenge.
Behavioural science explains how patrons respond to a social thirst, with everyone taking a unique approach to each situation. The careful assess danger, gauge situations, and speculate about consequence; the carefree remain untroubled and prioritise autonomous liberty. Background and personal circumstance also define perception: urbanites, for instance, may dread city crowds more than rural villagers fear country gatherings.
If a gregarious, freethinking public shows a relaxed attitude to ambiguous social guidance, is it sociopathic? (Even when many people detest what they consider to be elitist double standards, rules from which those with a sense of entitlement appear to be immune?) Or are people justified? And should pubs, brewpubs, taprooms, bars or other establishments indulge patrons wishing to reconnect with Hospitality for a much-needed mental health boost, or enforce zero tolerance?
Hospitality dilemma anguish
Anguish calls out for change: restricted opening may hurt some establishments, but remaining closed could prove worse. Ambiguity and divisive interpretation stifles economic comeback, and deficient social guidance limits industry operations. Misguidance lacks transparency, and clarity ensures fairness; an explicit strategy with enforceable controls ensures entrepreneurs adhere to common understanding, free from deliberate or accidental disadvantage.
Hospitality loses its workable cohesion in high-stakes hypotheses testing, gambling its income in real-time. The industry faces a dilemma: mandates that expect establishments and patrons to cherry-pick and regulate their own behaviour. While good entrepreneurial judgement involves scrupulous discretion and effective governance, some people see tantalising cut-throat opportunities to embrace, and others survive only by finding loopholes to exploit. All the while everybody’s livelihood haemorrhages.
Strategic errors occur when industries like Hospitality are deemed to be distinct deterministic units, in which action and consequence display predictable, repeatable and linear cause-and-effect behaviour. In reality, they are Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS), formed of multiple interconnected and diverse components, each of which is itself a CAS — interdependent and acting with autonomy. Attempts to remedy the whole system through intervention in a single area are thus ineffective.
As opportunity cuts both ways, mismatched constraints benefit some establishments and disadvantage others — emblematic of partial reopening chaos. It is proper for Hospitality entrepreneurs to raise their concerns if social guidance permits trading and compounds losses, yet lawmakers seldom hear solitary opinions or conflicting claims. A single, unified industry voice protests with greater power, channelling extensive knowledge into a consistent response to mutually exclusive, contentious dilemmas.
Effective trade organisations strengthen each region’s case, enhance decision-making, and offer universal, tactical solutions. They convince people to listen when statistical outliers weaken a cohesive argument, when establishments reject industry solidarity and threaten hard-fought industry campaigns. And with simple measurement techniques and centralised data offering rigorous post-COVID-19 answers, membership is now vital for Hospitality entrepreneurs.
Knowing when established models work today and when adapting to circumstance works tomorrow is a tenacious discipline that trade organisations (and diligent entrepreneurs) have mastered. Distinguishing between doing things right or doing the right thing — efficiency versus effectiveness — bewilders the statistical outliers.
Respecting methods and needs
As establishments balance advantage with unworkable disadvantage, national trade organisations urge their governments to reconsider partial reopening guidance. Some memberships prefer their own threat management and others reject an unjust one-size-fits-all approach — perhaps a third group denies the pandemic or its effects. Although the arguments differ, every region’s Hospitality industry faces a similar struggle: facing an uncertain future with an acute need to recuperate lockdown losses.
A double-edged sword hangs precarious over Hospitality: a challenging contradiction between easing a dire economic situation and, inherent in further outbreaks, avoiding more stay-at-home orders. Whether choosing a cautious, limited reopening or full, unrestricted relaunch, both threaten income potential.
However, if social-healing decisions include Hospitality, balanced guidance can successfully respect industry methods and public need without delivering an unfair blow to those already struggling.
Industries learn to learn
Nobody predicts their future status with accuracy, but dynamic entrepreneurial instinct reacts to changing expert advice and responds well to the coronavirus (COVID-19) ebb and flow. Astute thinkers learn to learn, adapt to circumstance and uncover hitherto unknown industry revenue streams: maximising opportunity to future-proof income. By adopting threat management and innovation’s defend-attack strategy, Hospitality will prosper again in time — despite a lengthy recovery.
“A world of flat organisations and tumultuous business conditions — and that’s our world — punishes fixed skills and prizes elastic ones.” Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: the Surprising Truth about Moving Others. Riverhead Books, 2013.
The prized elasticity to which Pink refers is a goal for everybody: individuals and industries. Entrepreneurs recognise it and Hospitality learns from it. While the obsolete ‘fixed skills’ limit opportunity and demonstrate deficient foresight or potential, 21st century success requires adaptability, flexibility and responsiveness to change. Whether a Hospitality pioneer or jack-of-all-trades, elasticity makes it easier to adopt new practices during future crises.
Concealing lost opportunity
National rescue packages present a paradox, inasmuch as fiscal support to shoulder a tanking economy carries an implicit burden to repay bailouts, which may last for generations. It could prove fatal to entrepreneurs teetering between profit and loss. But there is an alternative approach, and far-sighted government acumen could avoid excessive commercial disaster across many industries.
Speculative spending demands diligent creativity to be effective, and arbitrary state handouts likewise require real-world strategic support. Sweeteners without initiative conceal lost opportunities. Since money alone cannot heal an economy, practical aid and sufficient regional investment in society, culture and innovation will stimulate progress and recovery.
Industries like Hospitality, which are formed from myriad small businesses, deserve tactical direction to identify and affect meaningful post-COVID-19 change: fair, honest, and reasonable opportunities to flourish. Why does the recovery agenda lack evolution and divergence, for instance, yet bureaucracy and state-supported monopolies remain deep-rooted, stifling grassroots development?
With adequate direction, Hospitality could align with decisive post-COVID-19 global transformation. Current thinking shifts economic goals from a fixation on GDP growth (‘extreme inequalities of income and wealth coupled with unprecedented destruction of the living world’) to thriving in balance (sustainability). Many industry entrepreneurs already recognise that, in the words of economist Kate Raworth, ‘what we need, even in the richest countries, are economies that make us thrive whether or not they grow’.
Without national foresight to drive domestic commercial revolution, whose insight covers the shortfall and leads Hospitality towards successful transformation?
As the pandemic limits entrepreneurial opportunity, cuts employee income and damages ancillary worker turnover, Hospitality finds the strength to self-energise and prosper. Far-sighted inventive thinkers pursue learning: transform, diverge or remodel a strategic approach. Future slumps can be mitigated with agility, rigour and unconventional thinking — abstract concepts and reflection (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat).
Defying obsolescence and homogeny
The persistent analogy between business and Adaptive Evolution guides entrepreneurs. Survival favours variation; differentiators defy obsolescence or distinct pathfinders shun homogeny. By synergising with its environment and reacting to its patrons, Hospitality increases its variety and success exploits opportunity, eliminates defects, and mistrusts the rigidity hampering iterative market analysis.
Preparing for the unimaginable
An ability to gain swift advantage proved an important lesson to agile Hospitality entrepreneurs, whose rapid response to stay-at-home orders involved deliberate innovation, deviation and urgent remediation planning. Industry foresight must now expect the unexpected, imagine the unimaginable and prepare for randomness, the Black Swan events — inconceivable, albeit possible, rare occurrences that are unlikely to occur but would prove disastrous if they did.
(COVID-19 differs from Black Swan events because experts predicted a novel coronavirus ravaging the global economy — yet no one listened!)
Prescribed solutions to anticipate randomness are futile, and any such planning guide is worthless. If following a simple checklist were possible, it would be inadequate, for strategies built on known outcomes become the unimaginable event’s first casualties. And economic differentiators occur by following a distinctive path. The single workable preparation for randomness involves unique thinking, unbiased analysis and honest self-reflection: abandon judgement, preconception and existing notions.
Such thinking offers a significant by-product: entrepreneurs discover their own game-changing disruptive innovation.
Beneficial shocks to the system
Many people overlook Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile and misunderstand — or deny! — how industries benefit from failed businesses’ inherent fragility. Entrepreneurs tend to learn survival and success strategies while ignoring why economies need failure to improve. Optimism overlooks collapse, creating a survivorship bias.
‘It is painful to think about ruthlessness as an engine of improvement,’ Taleb writes. ‘For the economy to be antifragile and undergo what is called evolution, every single individual business must necessarily be fragile, exposed to breaking.’ If every establishment were robust or immortal, as Taleb suggests, Hospitality would be ‘stagnant or weak’ and lack ‘quality, stability, and reliability’ — a label nobody wants. Failure is thus an important economic factor to acknowledge.
“Had restaurants been individually robust, hence immortal, the overall business would be either stagnant or weak, and would deliver nothing better than cafeteria food — and I mean Soviet-style cafeteria food.” Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. Random House, 2012.
Because antifragility benefits from shocks to the system, entrepreneurs must learn to nurture a healthy risk-taking appetite for hypothesis-testing an establishment’s fragility. Antifragile thinking implies flexible maturity and recognition that necessary failure affects change and improvement.
Challenge history repeating
Taleb’s salient bailout warning speaks to Hospitality entrepreneurs and trade organisations in 2020: ‘governments typically favour a certain class of firms that are large enough to require being saved in order to avoid contagion to other business. This is the opposite of healthy risk-taking; it is transferring fragility from the collective to the unfit.’
Like fourteenth century mega-corporations, which gained advantage following a pandemic, future government bailouts that reinforce large, national brands pose a threat to Hospitality’s unique, vibrant intimacy. Entrepreneurs and trade organisations should therefore remain neutral, objective and free from undue influence.
Because returning to business-as-usual was impossible, commerce adapted following the Black Death. That pandemic created a Late Middle Ages ‘new normal’ in which those who adopted new practices and invested in new technology gained market dominance. Machines replaced people, the rich got wealthier and government power increased. And while large businesses monopolised, small ones disappeared.
To triumph amid tomorrow’s business challenges, today’s entrepreneur seeks evolution, respects randomness and applies antifragile ideas. If unrestrained thinkers and careful risk-takers have what it takes to endure and blossom, endemic threats may prove relatively harmless to establishments that welcome opportunity.