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COVID-19 and a Garden Hose

By Wan Fui Chan | March 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

In March 1941 during the Second World War, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into power the “Lend Lease” bill. The bill effectively removed the cash terms restriction under which the United States could provide Allied Nations with food, oil and materials. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to think that the results of the Second World War would be quite different had this assistance not been provided.

The analogy that Roosevelt made for the Lend Lease Bill was if your neighbour’s house is on fire and you have a garden hose. Do you barter on the price of the hose before you help? Or do you help first and then get the hose back when it is all over?

(More on this later on as I attempt to make a point through it.)

‘Me’ to ‘We’

In my first Gartner Research note I wrote about how a shift from ‘Me’ to ‘We’ was required in order to successfully implement Agile (Implementing Agile Successfully Requires a Culture Shift From ‘Me’ to ‘We’). At the time I wrote the note I had no idea that we were about to bear witness to a global shift from ‘Me’ to ‘We’ as acts of kindness and selflessness were demonstrated by people all over the world. Volunteers driving medical staff to hospital and delivering medicine in Wuhan, over 700,000 volunteers to help the NHS in the UK, free food, surgical masks and accommodation provided to health service workers in countless countries across the globe.

Corporate Spirit

All of this outpouring of “Community Spirit” gives us all hope in these challenging times as people go the extra mile. But is there such a thing as “Corporate Spirit” where corporations will help other corporations not as fortunate and in need? The core essence of the idea is not new with Bill Gates making this suggestion for Countries (How to respond to COVID-19):

donor governments should help low- and middle-income countries prepare for this pandemic

It worked back in 1941 (I told you I would come back to it) with Roosevelt’s Lend Lease Bill but could it work again in a different guise? Could we have a Corporate Lend Lease venture? Those were different times I hear you say and the world was at war then but is the current situation any different when we read about “countries battling”, “casualties” and the “front line”?

The “Lend” in this suggestion would not be food, oil and materials but knowledge, resources and hardware. Those surplus laptops in storage could be vital to another corporation, the expertise that your company has in setting up VPNs could be the make or break for someone else. Both Gartner and MIT Sloan Management Review have provided COVID-19 related research for free in the spirit of knowledge share and other corporations have made available software services for free or at a reduced rate.

There are obvious boundaries and limitations with no suggestion on anything that would compromise security, I.P. or integrity (to name but a few). If there are examples out there, then please share, spreading good news and examples of altruism at times like these is always welcome. If not, then will anyone consider lending their garden hose……

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