Endings, beginnings, and change: Being a planner in times of crisis

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon.

Don’t mind me as I get a little personal here.

This has been an upside-down, crazy year for everyone, myself included. And as I embark on a new, unexpected chapter of my life, I wanted to reflect on what it took to get me here — and on what might lie ahead.

In Tarot, the Death card represents endings. But it also represents change, transformation, the kind of new beginnings that are only possible by letting go of the past and starting fresh.

This can be a painful process. It so often is. But as I’m trying to remind myself, new beginnings can be hopeful, too. It’s a feeling I had nine years ago, standing on the precipice of the last new beginning. And it’s a feeling I have today, as I embark on this next one.

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The fragility of trust: Airlines and the COVID dilemma

“Trust is a fragile thing – difficult to build, easy to break. It cannot be bargained for. Only if it is freely given it can be expected in return” – Peter Lerangis

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated many industries, but perhaps none as swiftly or as severely as the travel industry. As borders shuttered and lockdowns came into effect worldwide this spring, reeling airlines grounded flights across the world. By April, IATA estimated that passenger traffic dropped by 91%, forcing airlines to cancel over 80% of their flights and sending dozens of airlines into bankruptcy. Major carriers including Avianca, LATAM, South African Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic filed for bankruptcy protection or were forced into receivership.

As airlines struggled to cope with the devastation, they reverted to life support mode. They massively laid off staff, grounded entire fleets, and set to work cancelling thousands upon thousands of flights. And they were left with a massive cash flow problem when, suddenly, they had to cancel virtually all of their flights and refund their passengers. So much money going out, with no money coming in? That spelled disaster. And they panicked.

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Marketing during COVID: A 4-step plan

I’m writing this about nine weeks into lockdown, during the biggest pandemic of the century.

2020 wasn’t supposed to be like this. The year started with optimistic projections. The global economy was healthy and robust, with the OECD projecting lofty growth among both G20 and developing countries. It was to be an Olympic year. Unemployment was down. Living standards were up. Digital advertising revenue was forecast to grow by nearly 11%, to a whopping $326 billion.

And then everything changed.

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How to be data-driven in a crisis

In times of extraordinary change, how should businesses navigate and interpret the massive quantities of data coming their way? My team of strategic planners, analysts, and insights specialists spend all day every day interpreting numbers. But what happens when those numbers suddenly seem to become irrelevant in times of massive upheaval or change?

Right now, we’re facing unprecedented times—in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, it seems like things are changing so quickly that one day’s numbers are no longer relevant by the next. We’re accustomed to looking at 30 or 60 or 90 days of historical data to make forecasts, but that feels impossible now.

Many businesses who rely on big data for decision-making are struggling with this right now. So, I’d like to propose a few guiding principles to help data-driven decision makers cope with a crisis of this scale.

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