What Is “Business as Usual” After September 11?
According to the immediate and numerous responses to questions raised concerning the impact of the tragic events of September 11 on "business as usual," the consensus is that our lives have been changed, whether at a global, national, organizational, or personal level.
Global and national changes will be immediate regardless of the wide range of possible responses to the terrorist attacks suggested by respondents. Examples from other countries were cited to point out future perils and possible responses. E. Jordan, citing an example from his country, noted that "In as much as it affects business, I believe what could occur here is what happened in Peru during the bloody terrorist war... a profound economic, moral, and political crisis." Gil Robinson and Pankaj Dubey suggested productive long-term responses. According to Robinson, " ... living under pressure similar to Israel's will not present the growth environment this country has fostered... The only hope of getting past this type of incredible evil is by inclusion... We must find a way—after we exact our revenge, I guess—to get to the root of this hate." Dubey presented a related thought: "Safety precautions, etc. are reactive approaches. The proactive approach will be to involve under-privileged peoples in constructive work, (help them) improve their standard of living, and instill in them a feeling of security."
Changes in organizations, according to respondents, will be subtle, but real.
—Professor James Hesket
Changes in organizations, according to respondents, will be subtle, but real. Perhaps the most interesting opinions on this topic were set forth by Niklas Arvidsson: "What will be the effect of (fewer face-to-face meetings and less travel)? In the short run, increased efficiency due to reduced costs. In the long run, increased international segregation—even between western countries—and a reduced global learning rate due to a lesser degree of physical interaction... I believe the global business world will lose its current effectiveness in knowledge exchange... This is a huge setback for the global economy."
At the personal level one respondent commented that perceptions rather than reality have changed: "The reality is that we were always at risk and were either ignorant or chose to ignore it." Eleanor Latimer expanded on this when she said "To be blunt, I am concerned about security in a way I have not been since the '70s. And I am prepared to put up with greater inconvenience and higher taxes (note taxes, not prices) to have more peace of mind. Security is primary a governmental obligation—not a commercial one."
One of the more personal and thought-provoking responses was that Rebecca Lula, who noted that "following the tragic events last week ... I ... wondered why I spent the past few years in a mad dash for something that I can now not name... I will have a much better grasp of what is worth having and what isn't."
What do you think?
Looking over one of my favorite weekly business magazines published a couple days before the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., I am struck by how dated (and relatively insignificant) all of the articles were. If written today, nearly all might have included some reference to the awful watershed events of that day, because those events may have implications for every business story. But what are the implications of the attack?
We are already reading, of course, the most obvious stories of how the airline and insurance industries, to name two, will be affected. And of how the Internet performed so dependably in spite of almost unimaginable demand.
But what about more basic issues? Must we increasingly choose between our freedom and our security? If so, what's the price (and cost) of this choice?
At a personal level, for example, all of us have several trips, both business and personal, already scheduled. Some are more important than others. Do we take all of them? If not, how will it affect the way we relate to our business colleagues and loved ones? If we don't take them, are we acknowledging a victory for terrorism over freedom?
Perhaps more relevant for this column, at a commercial level, what are the implications of a possible loss of certain freedoms, its impact on free enterprise, and its effect on global enterprise? How great are the security costs—at global, national, organizational, and personal levels—needed to achieve the "peace of mind" with which we did business on September 10? How will they and other changes affect business and consumer costs and, at a more basic level, the global economy? And what can we learn from those who have been doing business and succeeding in global competition under the threat of terrorist attacks for years? What do you think?