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The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of dark sides. Around the world, people get ill and die, schools close, the healthcare system is overloaded, employees lose their jobs, companies face bankruptcy, stock markets collapse and countries have to spend billions on bailouts and medical aid. And for everyone, whether directly hurt or not, Covid-19 is a huge stressor shaking up our psyche, triggering our fears and uncertainties.
No matter how serious and sad all of this is, there are upsides as well. Therefore, along the Monty Python song “Always look on the bright side of life” let’s not forget those and make the best of what the crisis gives us. As the good old SWOT analysis tells us, there are not only threats, but also opportunities. With opportunities I don’t mean that the crisis provides extra business for companies like Zoom and Go to Webinar that enable virtual meetings, or for Amazon, which is planning to hire another 100,000 employees. The latter is probably more a threat than an opportunity for most, especially for the mom & pop stores that go through difficult times already.
With opportunities I mean general opportunities that are available for most people affected by the crisis. The current crisis offers at least seven of them:
Opportunity 1: More time
In today’s overheated economy time is often seen as the most valuable and sparse thing we have. Covid-19 shows why: because we have stacked our week with social gatherings and entertainment such as going to the theater, birthdays, cinema, restaurant, bar, sportclub, gym, music, festivals, concerts and what is more. Suddenly, all of that is cancelled or forbidden, giving us significant amounts of extra time. And still, live goes on. This shows us how easy it is to clear our calendars. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the health-care sector and other crucial sectors, but beyond those it applies to a large majority of sectors.
The opportunity is that we can spend this time on other things—or even better, on nothing and enjoy the free time. Looking at the crowded parks, waste collection points, garden centres and DIY stores in the last week, many people seem to have a hard time with the latter. Instead of enjoying the extra free time, they fill it immediately with other activities. To seize this first opportunity though, re-arranging how you spend your time and reserving time for nothingness is key. Not just during the crisis, but also after it. The advices in my previous article on the Covid-19 crisis could help in realizing this.
This offers a great opportunity to rethink our habits and routines and make changes. Now that you haven’t been able to go to the restaurant twice a week, commute 2 hours per day, hang out with your friends or go to a party every weekend, you can reflect on whether you really want to continue doing so after the crisis. The virus forces you to make changes to your daily life that you might actually want to keep also after the crisis.
Opportunity 3: Speed and innovation
Many organizations suffer from slow procedures, complex bureaucracies and rigid hierarchies making organizational life less than pleasant. The coronavirus has forced many of them to break through these rigid systems and act instantly. Suddenly procedures can be skipped or accelerated, rules can be side-tracked and decisions can be made more autonomously without formal approval. And suddenly employees are allowed to work from home without direct supervision.
Covid-19 shows that, as soon as there is a strong enough stimulus, things can change. This leads to remarkable innovations. Not being allowed to open their doors, restaurants, for example, are shifting to delivery mode. And schools suddenly do much of the teaching and even some of the testing online. This brings the opportunity to create innovations now that can be maintained after the crisis. And it also can help to keep the current speed and innovation mode afterwards.
Opportunity 4: Better meetings
As referred to in an earlier article, people spend up to 23 hours per week in meetings, half of which are considered a failure or waste of time. The current crisis has forced us to rethink how we deal with meetings. Because in many countries it is not allowed anymore to meet with a group of persons, many meetings are cancelled. And when they still take place they are mostly virtual and shorter.
As such, it provides an excellent opportunity for resolving one of the most disliked parts of organizational life. The technology for this is already present and mature for a couple of years, but the coronavirus triggers a sudden need for it. The real opportunity here is to make systematic changes so that meetings will be more effective, also after the crisis.
Opportunity 5: Reconnect and help
Challenging times offer a great opportunity for social bonding and other ways of connecting to and helping people. Of course, not being able to visit friends or family has increased isolation and feelings of loneliness in some cases. But the feeling of “we’re in this together” has also triggered interesting ways of connecting. Some of those have gone viral—such as Italians singing together from their windows and balconies—but there are many small, local initiatives too to connect and help people who need it.
In the individualized societies many of us live in, this provides opportunities to reconnect and create more social coherence. Not only during the crisis, but also afterwards. This opportunity comes with a big caveat though. Parallel to these nice initiatives we also witness how far people go to protect themselves and their families. People hoard food, medicine, toilet paper and guns without thinking a second of others. However, while it triggers self-serving egocentric behavior too, the Covid-19 crisis does provide us the opportunity to reconnect and show our social side.
Opportunity 6: Cleaner environment
The virus caused a shutdown or dramatical decrease of industrial activities. Factories are closed or operate far below their capacity, road traffic has reduced radically and air traffic collapsed, and the lack of tourism has emptied the streets in overcrowded cities like Venice, Amsterdam and New York. While this may be bad news for most people and especially those working in the affected industries, this is also good news for our planet. Covid-19 causes a significant reduction in green house gasses and other air, water and land polluting outputs. In Venice this has allegedly led to dolphins return after just a couple of weeks (although some argued this to be a hoax).
Whether the particular example is a hoax or not is not so relevant. The fact is that the shutdown and lockdown of large parts of our economy is good for nature—at least on the short term. The opportunity this provides, is to keep parts of this in place also after the crisis to make long-term improvements. Along the line of the previous opportunities, the current crisis provides us an opportunity to reconsider our lives and reorganize it in a way that has less impact on our planet.
Opportunity 7: Modesty and acceptance
The final opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis offers, is a chance to create awareness for the moderate role we play on this planet and accept that things cannot always go as we want them to go. The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis chat is unprecedented in modern peace time. We had other pandemics like SARS, but their impact was less substantial. And we had the 1973 oil crisis, but that was a man-made crisis. The coronavirus is not man-made and yet disrupts lives across the planet.
As such, the virus shows us that, no matter how well-planned and organized we are and no matter how much we live in the Anthropocene—the era characterized by significant human impact—we are not in control. One simple virus is disrupting everything. This offers a great opportunity. In almost every aspect of life we want to be in control. Whether it is health, airline safety or our calendars, we live in the illusion that full control is possible. The virus can help us create awareness that this is not the case. It provides an opportunity to take a more modest role and accept that many things are simply beyond our control.
Once again, the Covid-19 crisis has a large dark side. But as these seven opportunities show, it has positive sides as well. Since all seven opportunities require a quite fundamental change in how we approach the world, seizing them can take substantial time. In that sense, and if we keep on looking at the brighter sides of life, the longer the crisis lasts, the larger the opportunities are and the bigger the chances are of actually making changes to our deeply rooted habits and convictions. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.
I help companies do strategy through training, mentoring and consulting. My drive is to bring you and your organization to the next level with strategy approaches that work. I wrote “Strategy Consulting,” “Nor More Bananas,” and “The Strategy Handbook.” Reach out to me via jeroenkraaijenbrink.com, LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat Flynn 282K subscribers 26 million Americans are without a job right now, and that’s just in the U.S. alone. It’s a terrible situation, one that I’m all too familiar with myself having gotten laid off during the recession in 2008. These are tough times, but there are opportunities within them, too. I was able to build a business back in 2008 as a result of getting laid off, and I imagine that those who focus on the future, and the ability to create something new now, are the ones who are going to come out of this dire situation best.
Can’t bend over and touch your toes? You might think flexibility is something you’re born with — you either have it or you don’t. While your flexibility level does have ties to genetics (we can’t all be contortionists), you might be surprised to learn that you can build flexibility just as you can build strength, endurance or speed.
Just like anything else, developing flexibility takes practice. It takes just as much consistency as does building muscle or getting in shape for a marathon. It may not be easy, but it’s definitely doable, and you can get started with these simple ways to become more flexible.
Holding static stretches may be the simplest method to improve flexibility. Static stretching includes all flexibility exercises that involve holding a muscle in a stretched position for a substantial amount of time, usually around 30 seconds. This allows you to isolate and deeply stretch a muscle. Starting and ending your day with static stretches — just for 5 to 10 minutes — can make a big difference in how flexible your muscles feel on a daily basis.
Static stretches you might already be familiar with include:
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2. Perform dynamic stretches before and after you exercise
Dynamic stretches, in contrast to static stretches, continuously move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion. This type of stretching feels much more vigorous than static stretching and may even get your heart rate up.
Dynamic stretching doesn’t isolate muscles as much as static stretching; rather, this type of active stretching works multiple muscles at the same time and teaches you how to engage your muscles and joints to support deeper and more fluid motion. Performing dynamic stretches before your workout makes for a good warmup, and engaging in a few after your workout helps return your body to its resting state (rather than just stopping cold after an intense sweat).
You might feel inflexible due to adhesions in your fascia, a type of connective tissue that covers your muscles, bones and joints. What people refer to as “muscle knots” often actually occur in the fascia (though your muscle tissue can develop knotty areas, too).
If you have a lot of these adhesions, which can develop from long periods of sedentary behavior as well as from intense physical activity, try adding self-myofascial release to your routine. Self-myofascial release is essentially self-massage with the goal of “releasing” those tight knots from your body tissues. You can do self-myofascial release with a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, a muscle roller or a massage gun.
Your ability or inability to fully rotate your spine and ball-and-socket joints (hips and shoulders) greatly influences your overall flexibility level. Your spine, hips and shoulders dictate most of the movements you make on a daily basis whether you realize it or not: Every time you step, reach, bend, turn, sit or stand, you’re using your spine along with your hips or shoulders. If you don’t actively practice rotating these joints, you’re missing out on your potential for flexibility.
Try these rotational exercises to improve flexibility:
In addition to your usual exercise, such as lifting weights or walking, try dedicating a few minutes each day to flexibility training. Time constraints may make it hard to prioritize flexibility exercises, but if you really want to get bendy, you’ll have to commit to a regular practice.
Here’s one way to incorporate flexibility training into your workout routine:
Morning: 5 minutes of static stretching, focus on the lower body
Before workout: 10 minutes of full-body dynamic stretching
After workout: 5 minutes of myofascial release on the muscles you worked
Before bed: 5 minutes of static stretching, focus on the upper body
By dedicating just a few minutes at a time, you can achieve nearly half an hour of flexibility training each day you exercise.
You can always slightly cut back on your active exercise time to incorporate flexibility work. For example, if you usually walk for 60 minutes a day, walk for 50 minutes and end your walk with 10 minutes of stretching. In the end, becoming more flexible is all about prioritizing flexibility as a goal.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
A technician at work on a rotor at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor International (MCO-I) facility in Pearland, Texas, in the Gulf Coast region. MCO-I
Consumers may love the “click today, deliver tomorrow” culture of online shopping, but it’s forcing manufacturers to react to changing customer needs faster than ever before. The effects are not limited to mass-produced goods; they’re rippling through the highly specialized world of heavy machinery, which is experiencing burgeoning demand for customized products.
While technology’s growing influence on the sector can’t be ignored, the need for accelerated production and delivery is changing heavy machinery manufacturing – reshaping the sector in profound ways and creating new opportunities for growth.
The conventional global manufacturing and distribution model is disappearing. Instead of shipping from one large production facility to the rest of the world, manufacturers are searching for more efficient arrangements. For some companies, that means setting up shop closer to customers to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and be able to respond quickly.
Working together is nothing new for Japanese companies. Chowa, as it’s known in Japanese, refers to ‘a spirit of harmonious partnership.’
One company that’s reaping the benefits of proximity is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor International (MCO-I), a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group. Rather than manufacture machinery at its home base in Japan and ship it to the United States, the company established a Gulf Coast base in 2015, in the heart of the local oil and gas industry – roughly half of the U.S. oil refining and natural gas processing capacity is located along the Gulf of Mexico.
This move has led to MCO-I’s rapid growth in the U.S. over the last four years, allowing the company to better understand the market and adapt its operations to the needs of its customers. Rather than simply shipping pieces of equipment, the company now offers customers whole-life service for its products.
3D printing on the premises
Technologies such as 3D printing are accelerating how companies produce their products. For instance, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Machine Tool Co.(MAT) uses a proprietary additive manufacturing process to print metal components of virtually any size, and a unique monitoring system works in real time, analyzing feedback and automatically adjusting the printing process to guarantee the integrity of the finished product.
Clients have access to a record of the manufacturing, giving them complete traceability. And the process is cheaper than traditional methods, such as casting. This innovation opens up many possibilities for companies operating closer to their customers. Manufacturers can produce highly specialized components on-site, for industries ranging from auto manufacturing to space travel.
Components produced locally also cut out the carbon dioxide emissions associated with transporting products across long distances, another growing concern for customers.
Increasingly, manufacturers are adopting a spirit of collaboration, joining forces to meet the time frames and complex demands of customers. Some industries are naturally suited to such joint ventures: Mobile phone service providers have been benefiting from shared network infrastructure for years, reducing costs, spreading investment risk and extending their coverage.
Today, deep supply chain integration continues to offer many benefits to both vendor and buyer, especially as the market demands ever faster production and distribution.
Working together is nothing new for Japanese companies. Chowa, as it’s known in Japanese, refers to “a spirit of harmonious partnership.” Harmony can even exist between rivals, where the practical benefits of combining resources outweigh competitive concerns. Mazda and Toyota may compete, for example, but they’re building a joint factory in Alabama – a single facility that will produce cars from both companies for American drivers.
As businesses look to go local, these kinds of collaboration are a strategic way to cut the costs of running multiple global bases. Partner companies may also have shared interests despite operating in very different fields. Take Google and Volkswagen, which have joined forces in a quantum computing partnership. Although the companies may apply the technology differently, they share a common goal to advance the field while sharing the resources required to do so. In an increasingly high-tech world, where such breakthroughs could shift the playing field, unlikely collaborations could become commonplace.
For major manufacturers, working with other companies provides an opportunity to offer clients end-to-end solutions – through the power of internal chowa. On the Gulf Coast, MCO-I and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) have come together to supply customers with compressor and gas turbine packages.
Greater collaboration has also become an integral part of successful and faster supply chains, as astute manufacturers realize the benefits of developing deeper relationships with their vendors. These suppliers can help manufacturers reduce costs, boost quality and develop new products and processes to outpace and outperform competitors.
This is a proven strategy for Japanese companies. The country’s major auto manufacturers were fostering supply chain integration in the U.S. in the 1980s. This culture of cooperation exported from Japan ran counter to the price-focused interactions between carmaker and supplier that dominated the American automobile market at the time.
Honda and Toyota built long-term, close-knit vendor networks in the States, in which suppliers learned, improved and shared in the parent company’s success. In the 1990s, production costs fell by as much as 25 percent for some Japanese models, lead times to bring new models to market were shorter than those of U.S. rivals, and overall reliability was superior.
Today, deep supply chain integration continues to offer many benefits to both vendor and buyer, especially as the market demands ever faster production and distribution. Sharing expertise and knowledge builds trust between partners, and often mutual success. The spirit of cooperation makes it easier to respond to customer requests for bespoke products and to react to emergencies.
This strategic, and at times physical, closeness can also give customers peace of mind about what they’re buying: MCO-I’s integration with MHI Group companies means customers know the provenance of their machines.The result is greater speed and greater transparency – chowa at its best.
About the author
Johnny Wood has been a journalist for over 15 years working in different parts of the world – Asia, Europe and Middle East. As well as an accomplished features writer he has edited several prestigious lifestyle magazines and corporate publications.
A leading industrial firm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group (40 billion USD annual revenue) is finding new, simpler and sustainable ways to power cities, improve infrastructure, innovate manufacturing and connect people and ideas around the globe with ever-increasing speed and efficiency. For over 130 years, the company has channeled big thinking into innovative and integrated solutions that move the world forward.