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The future of adapting to unwanted change

Free on-demand webinar

By ATB Financial 27 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a lot of unwanted change in its wake. And while it’s not always possible to “pivot” when unwanted change comes along, there are stories of adapting during the pandemic that are both inspiring and instructive.

In this webinar, ATB’s Chief Economist Todd Hirsch and Deputy Chief Economist Rob Roach, discuss the traits shared by the people, businesses and nonprofit organizations that adapted and found success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conversation draws from Todd and Rob’s new book, Spiders in COVID Space: Adapting During and After the Pandemic. The titular spiders were sent into space by NASA to see if they could spin webs without the aid of gravity. After some false starts, they adapted to the new conditions and were able to spin their webs in a totally different environment. Inspired by this, Hirsch and Roach interviewed individuals, businesses and nonprofits about adapting to unwanted change and discovered an interrelated set of common traits that people can apply to their lives.

The pandemic has presented all of us with a wide range of situations where our gravity has been taken away. Watch now to discover the traits you can master to help you adapt the next time you face unwanted change in your own life.

Top Five Takeaways:

1. Know your core story: “In the interviews we did, it was evident in each one that they knew who they were as an organization, who they were as an individual, as a business. They knew their core story,” says Hirsch.

One example is a Calgary senior services organization called The Kerby Centre, which had to close its physical doors during the pandemic, says Roach. “They understood that their core story wasn’t that they were a building. It was that they were a source of connection between services and individuals in the senior population. Knowing that, it enabled them to think differently about how they approached things.”

2. Seek and accept help: “Help from the community is important. Even though there are some proactive things you can do when facing unwanted change, sometimes you really do have to rely on others for help and you can’t control everything yourself,” says Roach.

3. Open mindedness: This trait encompasses a few things, says Roach. “It’s creativity. It’s being willing to experiment. It’s also about looking at things from different perspectives. Taking the time to find people who might see things in a different way or might have an alternative view on something you’ve been doing for years.”

Russell Bird, the owner of The Promo Addict in Sherwood Park, embodied this trait, he says. When the pandemic hit, his promotional products business collapsed as companies cut their budgets. After some reflection and conversations with trusted advisors, he launched a new business related to his passion for BBQ.

4. Realistic faith: This trait is the culmination of having a big dream or goal (the faith), while also having a sense of what is possible (the realism). Realistic faith is the balance between what you want to be doing and what you’re good at. The National accessArts Centre, a nonprofit offering services to artists with developmental disabilities, is a great example of this trait in action.

“The National accessArts Centre had to close their in-person studio because of the pandemic, but then had the big idea of offering programming online. They were also realistic because they understood not everybody would be able to go online instantly. They'd have to find some way to deliver art supplies physically to persons, to people's homes,” explains Roach.

5. Harnessing tension: “The temptation when you’re faced with change is to try to find the black and white solution,” says Roach. “But what we found is that you really have to do the opposite. You have to be able to say: ‘I need to have a very specific, clear plan and I need to be willing to change it instantly if something happens.’”

Bike Bike in Calgary did this effectively during the pandemic. “They had to shrink their business in terms of service and repair, but they also had to expand into other areas, like bike backpacking tours. That’s the ability to harness tension that is necessary when dealing with confusing situations that unwanted change brings up,” he says.

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