There are 4 Steps of Learning Through the COVID-19 Crisis. Where Do You Fall?

We’ve learned a lot over the past three months. For starters, we learned new terms like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine,” as well as how to conduct a Zoom meeting. On a deeper level, we learned how to pivot in a time of crisis and difficult decision making necessary to keep your small business’s lights on. While the social, economic, and physical impact of COVID-19 is far from over, with most businesses legally allowed to reopen in some capacity, we can take a breath and reflect.

A few months ago (pre-pandemic), I wrote a blog on the topic of the 4 steps to learning. I thought I’d revisit the topic from a post-coronavirus lens, to show where we now fall in the learning process, and to share how we can continue to grow as learners and leaders. If you’re waiting for things to go “back to normal,” you’re already falling behind. Buying behavior, consumer habits and social norms have forever changed. To not only survive but to thrive in our new economy, you must be willing to apply and adapt to these learnings.

The First Step: Unconscious Incompetence (or Ignorance)

Remember back in January, when we had no idea what we were in store for us and COVID-19 was just a blip on our radar? We were in the first step of learning without even knowing it. The baseline of all learning begins with being blissfully unaware of what it is you need to learn. By mid-March, COVID-19 was characterized as a pandemic and we quickly reached the second step of learning.

The Second Step: Conscious Incompetence (or Awareness)

Step two escalated quickly. As we were made aware of the coronavirus and how it’s spread, we were left with a lot of questions that no one truly knew the answers to. How long will it last? How do I keep my employees and customers safe? How can my business operate with the government’s guidelines and restrictions? How do I communicate all this with my team and with my customers? What’s my next step? How can I survive this? What resources are available to me to help keep my business afloat?

This step of learning was difficult and painful. There were no right answers or concrete resources to turn to. As you grew in your awareness of the virus and economic upset, you had to decide on what changes needed to be made in your business to help close the gap between conscious incompetence and conscious competence.

The Third Step: Conscious Competence (or Learning)

By now, most of us are in the third step of learning known as conscious competency as our economy opens back up. This step is all about adapting for survival based on what we’ve observed, as well as what we’re anticipating in the near and not-so-distant future. We’ll stay in this step of learning until the pandemic has subsided, and we’ve made it through on the other side with successfully proven plans in place to tackle a similar situation in the future.

You may have made these changes on-the-fly a few months ago. Take some time to refine the changes you’ve made and think strategically as to how you can implement these changes long-term. Continue to test out new ideas on how your business can best serve your customers in a virtual environment. Work to minimize the supply chain kinks you’re experiencing and identify any changes you may need to make. Develop a communication plan and focus on how to improve customer service in times of low and high demand.

The Last Step: Unconscious Competence (or Mastery)

We aren’t to the last step of learning yet. We don’t know the full and lasting impacts that COVID-19 will have. While cases in Iowa and the U.S. as a whole are trending down, there are states in our nation that continue to see over 1,000 cases per day and predictions of a second wave of the virus to hit this fall/winter during flu season. Continue to fine-tune your processes and procedures so you’re prepared in the case that our economy might slow down again later on this year.

How can you be better prepared moving forward?

Pre-COVID-19, your operations were at a mastery level and all it took was one day to shake things up and move us down to step one of learning. By understanding the learning process, focusing predominantly on moving quicker and more strategically from step 2 to step 3, changes in the economy will be less detrimental to your company. You’ll be more adaptable and prepared to use your resources differently depending on what life throws at you next.

Remember, your employees and customers are going through the learning process with you! Sharing the 4 steps to learning with them will help them to better understand the changes you are making in your business and can help them to personally cope/rebound during times of uncertainty.

How can Accelerate ActionCOACH help you through the learning process? Do you need an expert to help walk you through the changes that need to be made in your company? Are you looking for a group of business owners to act as a sounding board and give you advice that has worked well in their business? Contact us and we’ll find the best program to help you thrive during this difficult time.

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