China’s response to Covid-19 showed how true grit works

Saturday March 21 2020

Last week I wrote about the fact that everyone will have their coronavirus moment like Donald Trump where a situation will arise for which everything they ever did to address problems will not work. Here is a problem that he could not give funny names like crazy corona. He could not tweet or bully it away. Nothing that worked in the past could work for this one.

We have for years urged leaders that they needed to get their businesses ready for disruption. We said that a disruption would come and shake them to the very foundations and would make some of them irrelevant.

Many leaders are great at talking about disruption but when confronted with the reality, they have no clue what to do. Some listen and others sneer at the thought of it. They have the MV Titanic mentality that not even God could sink their ship. Well, coronavirus is here and like any typical disruption, no one could have predicted where it would come from and how it would play out.

Cockroaches vs dinosaurs

Coronavirus has come to disrupt life as we know it. Indeed, for a long time to come, the world will be viewed in pre-corona and post-corona terms.

Remember that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. The dinosaur did not make it while the cockroach did.


We shall see a lot of post-corona casualties in the sense that many companies that appeared solid pre-corona will have fizzled out. Many are thinking of sending people home.

Ironically, others are increasing their workforce because business is good.

Some business models will change forever after this. A generation might come that will hear stories of how people once shook hands. A generation might come and not believe that there was a time when cleaning of hands in public places was not always there.

Response time

Nothing in modern history has disrupted and altered the way we live like the coronavirus of 2020. Is there a way anyone could have prepared for this level of disruption? Perhaps it might help to look to where it all started. In Wuhan, China, they had within days put up 16 hospitals that attended to thousands.

They had 60 million people on lockdown. That was probably one of the largest lockdowns in history. Ironically, we are now told they have managed the situation and the worst is over for them.

The US on the other hand, is still struggling to come up with a clear path on how to deal with the problem. They have conflicting reports coming out every day.

In one moment of disruption we have seen the difference between a hype-driven system and a fact-driven, capacity-ready system. China does not have the hype the US has but what is obvious to all is that they had the facts and capacity to deal with the situation as it emerged.

One might argue that had their response been faster the situation might not have gone as viral as it did. The fact, however, remains that once they stood up to it, the Chinese displayed a remarkable level of capacity and tenacity.

And in what appears to be a moment of global reset, China has become the place to look to for leadership on how to deal with such a pandemic.

You may have survived this wave of disruption but you need to know that it never stops. This is why investment in a solid foundation is not a good idea.

It is the only way.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks