How to Redesign Your Business in a Time of Uncertainty

Jazmin Harling-Gray

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Redesign Your Business in a Time of Uncertainty Using a Design Thinking Mindset

April 24, 2020

If your business has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s a guide to help you repurpose your brand toolkit for change.

As the effects of social distancing have interrupted day-to-day operations across the globe, organizations have been met with unprecedented challenges.

However, despite state-wide closures and lay-offs, entrepreneurs and small business owners are finding creative ways to quickly adapt to the new landscape. For some, this has led to joining the fight to flatten the COVID-19 curve, by producing high demand Personal Protective Equipment.

One family-owned dry-cleaning service in Santa Maria, California used their sewing skills to create custom face masks that protect against the coronavirus. By strategizing their areas of expertise they were able to repurpose their business functions and keep their company afloat.

Alternatively, non-profit organizations such as Open Works Baltimore and Dent Education have brought together problem-solvers to create innovative solutions for the shortage of PPE. These individuals have combined years of experience in various disciplines to develop working prototypes for products such as face shields and breathable, washable masks.

Redesigning your business functions could create new opportunities

If your business has been disrupted, derailed, or completely upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be wondering how you can continue forward. Now more than ever is the time to decide how to strategize your brand’s toolkit to create new business opportunities.

Here is a five-step guide to help you repurpose your business functions in the current landscape. In this guide I’ll walk you through exercises to help you identify key stakeholders in your network, generate business ideas to solve their problems and take actionable steps to land the job.

You can organize your thoughts during this brainstorming activity using the GPG Business Value Model.

1. Who are the stakeholders in the COVID-19 pandemic? (5 mins)

Take a moment to come up with as many people and organizations that have been affected by the pandemic as possible. Start by thinking broadly. This could be your favorite ice cream shop, your niece’s piano teacher, or even your mailman.

Don’t be afraid of being too specific or too vague. The list might seem endless at first. That’s a good thing.

As you’re writing each name down, think about how these people have been affected, including their interests, emotions, needs, and even some challenges they might be facing. Have they lost their jobs? Do they have limited access to food? Or are they just bored after weeks of quarantine?

2. Who, among the stakeholders, are within your reach? (8 mins)

Here’s where you’re going to narrow in your scope. Looking at your map of potential stakeholders consider who among them you could feasibly contact.

One way to do this is to use the six degrees of Kevin Bacon framework. Think about your broader network (i.e. a friend-of-a-friend), and how you can call upon your immediate network to organize a Zoom call with someone at a target organization.

If you’re having trouble, you can perform a quick LinkedIn search on an organization in your stakeholder map. Look through the first few pages of people that load and see if you have a first or second connection. With a little bit more digging you can identify that connection and send them a friend request.

3. What’s in your brand toolkit that other people need? (15 mins)

Your brand toolkit is the collection of skills, knowledge, experiences, connections, and areas of expertise that make you or your business valuable. In this step you’re going to start parsing through your brand toolkit to identify the unique elements that might be valuable to your stakeholders.

This can be done in two steps.

First, imagine you’re in a room with five other business owners. You’re collaborating with this group of people on a project to open a waterpark in your hometown. What tools could your business contribute to the project to make it successful?

Some things to consider could be:

Now, try writing out each element of your brand toolkit as if you were explaining them to a child. How might the language and purpose of each element change?

Next, think about the results that come from your tools. What happens when you use those tools? What do your stakeholders gain?

Second, break down each tool to its most basic purpose. These are what we call Value-Add Statements. If you are a marketing strategist with ten years of experience designing marketing campaigns for lifestyle books, break this down to your basic job function. Your Value-Add statement would be, “I connect people to information.”

This step could take you a little longer than others. If needed, write down one tool, then come back and generate more tools once you’ve completed the following steps.

4. Who needs the skills, talent, or resources that you can offer? (15 mins)

Now, connect the dots between your feasible stakeholders and your brand’s toolkit. Considering the things you’re bringing to the table, generate ideas of how your toolkit can be used to develop solutions for your stakeholders.

Let’s put some examples from earlier together. If you are a marketing strategist who connects people to information, how could you help your niece’s piano teacher continue offering lessons during quarantine?

One way you could accomplish this would be by helping the piano teacher distribute and promote pre-recorded lessons online.

If you’re interested in directly contributing to the fight against COVID-19 you could reach out to a local non-profit with an inquiry. You might be able to help them develop creative strategies to provide accurate, CDC-approved information on the virus to people who have limited access to technology.

Lastly, don’t forget to calculate the monetary value of each opportunity. Knowing the value of your ideas will help you distribute your time and resources properly, as well as negotiate contracts.

5. How can you get connected with the right people? (5 mins)

Finally, once you have some ideas written on the page, close the brainstorming loop by creating an action plan to get in touch with the right people. Use your list of feasible resources to reach out to the relevant individuals you identified. Once you’ve made contact, keep track of each opportunity and the results of the engagement. Keeping this process organized will help you stay sane and on top of each correspondence.

Now that you’ve identified your tools, will you use your brand toolkit to create new opportunities?

Jazmin Harling-Gray is a Content Strategist and Writer who enjoys designing meaningful customer experiences.

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