Ability to change will be key in 2022

One of the most pressing questions being asked by individuals and businesses today is when will COVID-19 “be over.”

The term “being over” carries a lot of connotations: COVID fully eradicated from society, low transmissibility rate, reduced need for masking, open international borders, reduced hospitalizations, reduced ICU use or reduced mortality.

Defining “being over” is really in the eye of each beholder — and best left to the health care professionals who have done incredible work during the pandemic.

Many in the scientific community (immunologists, public health experts and others) expect COVID-19 will move from a pandemic to an endemic — similar to the common cold, flu or other easily spread viruses we live with today.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “The expectation that COVID-19 will become endemic essentially means that the pandemic will not end with the virus disappearing; instead, the optimistic view is that enough people will gain immune protection from vaccination and from natural infection such that there will be less transmission and much less COVID-19-related hospitalization and death, even as the virus continues to circulate.”

With COVID likely remaining (perhaps at lesser strengths in time) in our society, we can and should continue to expect supply disruptions for the foreseeable future. In select areas (semiconductor), that delay could be longer. Other items might be readily available but instead carry inflated purchasing costs (gasoline, vehicles and many other household products.)

As businesses look toward 2022, it would be wise to consider creating dual supply chain availabilities. One might be able to gamble a bit on international supply chains while the other might help deepen relationships with regionally produced items.

During these times of uncertainty, having long-term suppliers where partnerships are built on trust is golden. Chasing the lowest price provider might work when supplies are plentiful. But this leaves little incentive for “single order” vendors to go the extra mile for a new relationship that might offer little future value.

If 2020 and 2021 have been marked by periods of uncertainty and change, 2022 is gearing up to be the poster child for even greater change and uncertainty. A variety of events will shape the business environment.

Some items we must monitor include: COVID vaccination, COVID variants that slow manufacturing across the globe, inflation, supply chain disruptions, labor availability, midterm elections, government spending, political divide, hybrid workforce, redistribution of population in the U.S. and changing attitudes of how people view the work-life balance. With the changes in consumer behavior, we are seeing significant shifts in product and service demand.

Those that remain fully ready to embrace change will be poised for 2022. A labor challenge one day could be a supply chain disruption the next.

With the levels of change and disruption we see in the markets, we should plan for a potential “black swan” event in 2022 — and if not a full black swan perhaps a “once in a decade” event.

Something will undoubtedly touch each of our business endeavors in 2022 in a profound way that wasn’t expected and had little statistical chance of occurring — but carries a significant impact.

The best way to mitigate this impact is to continue to monitor and read the tea leaves:

• What’s happening in the economy, my industry and my business that could cause significant impact?

• What would need to occur for these issues to turn from a minor disruption to a major impact?

• What can we proactively do to mitigate the impact of these unforeseen events?

And as I noted, we must continue to develop new ways to solve these emerging problems. Yesterday’s mindset is not designed for today’s challenges.

Despite the challenges that 2022 will undoubtedly throw our way, I’m bullish on the American people, our capacity to change and our ability to leverage innovation to have a great year.