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May 5, 202012:15 PMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Don’t waste a crisis, part 3: Prepare yourself!

Reopened Wisconsin will look much different than before. New safety measures will change the way we interact in public. There will be seen and unseen actions many of us will take. Geez, I washed my hands more in the past eight weeks than in the rest of my life combined! Still, these actions are critical to minimize new flare-ups. We will recover from this crisis in direct proportion to our willingness to put other’s well-being in front of our own.

Bigger changes will happen in business. In past downturns, leading businesses made investments in technology and people. They used pauses in the economy to improve their operations and complete the projects that are usually crowded out by the day-to-day demands of the business. These leaders come out of downturns in better position and ready to take advantage of market opportunities and weaker competitors. This time will be no different. We see our front-edge clients investing in technology and using the softer labor market to improve their talent.

Will you be ready for these changes? Just like leading companies, the most effective leaders will use this time intentionally to improve their own capabilities. It doesn’t seem like it now, but there will be more demand for talent, especially those people who can engage around new technology applications in traditional industries. We will see the first and most critical shortages in these areas. Will you be one of the people who take advantage of these opportunities?

Have you stayed in tune with the advances made possible by Industry 4.0? Do you understand how new technology will affect your job? Most people look at these technologies through one lens: internet of things, virtual reality, robotics, powerful computing, or big data. In reality, all of these technologies will play a role in reopened Wisconsin and will be combined in different implementations in different situations. These situations will require different skills — and more workers — to negotiate the new combination of people and machines which leverage the strengths of each to create new value.

Are you ready for these changes? Do you see them in action in your life? What will you do to improve yourself and take advantage of new opportunities? It’s a difficult challenge to learn about these new trends, understand their impact, and develop a logical narrative on how they will affect our lives. It’s tough — especially for those of us who are a little older — but essential to use that narrative to chart your future course. Use this pause to change your trajectory.

Many channels exist to improve your skills. Some are traditional — our four-year universities and colleges, along with the Wisconsin Technical College System, offer practical ways to improve your skills and abilities. They do a terrific job and may be perfect for what you need.

The nontraditional channels provide intriguing opportunities that provide less formal learning opportunities. During safer at home, these sources proliferated and provide access to some terrific thinking about the future. All the major financial services, consulting, and industry organizations created access to the best thinking about the trends affecting all of us. There have never been more channels to learn and improve your understanding of the world.

It’s a great time to make learning a priority. Create a routine for yourself and wall off regular time to devote to the effort. Explore the available resources and decide which ones are the best for you. Don’t be afraid to tap into unorthodox sources or ignore those that don’t fit your needs. There are too many platforms to follow them all! Instead, set some small goals to start the journey and let what you learn guide you to what’s next. Create a habit that can last in a reopened Wisconsin.

COVID-19 is changing the world, so be ready to change with it. Learn about what’s changing and think about how those changes affect you. Dive into the ideas and technology that interest you and make yourself an expert. Find the companies preparing for a better future that are using those ideas and technologies to improve. Use your learning to create opportunities for you and those around you to thrive in a reopened Wisconsin.

We’re unsure when Wisconsin will reopen. In the meantime, lean into the learning challenge.

Don’t waste a good crisis!

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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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