THE TERM ‘dis­rup­ti­on’ has been part of bu­si­ness rhe­to­ric for the past twen­ty ye­ars. Ty­pi­cal­ly, it re­fe­ren­ces tech­no­lo­gy as the big­gest dis­rup­tor in the field. In all the bu­si­ness clas­ses I’ve ta­ken, eve­ry case study high­ligh­ting dis­rup­ti­on draws from eit­her a new bu­si­ness mo­del (subsc­rip­ti­on bu­si­ness for ins­tan­ce) or tech­no­lo­gy (smart pho­nes). Terms like “dis­rup­tor,” or “dis­rup­ti­on,” like its com­ra­de words “sy­ner­gy” or “le­ve­ra­ge”, are so ubi­qui­tous that at ti­mes you want to call out ‘bu­si­ness buz­z­word bin­go’ when you hear one of them.

Yet, 2020 has gi­ven us a new ap­p­li­ca­ti­on for the word “dis­rup­ti­on.” The Co­vid-19 pan­de­mic has seen chan­ging work­for­ces, shif­ting la­bor prac­ti­ces and be­ha­vi­ors, the rise and fall of dif­fe­rent in­dust­ries, as well as a dra­ma­tic adop­ti­on of dif­fe­rent tech­no­lo­gies which have ra­di­cal­ly chan­ged and dis­rup­ted the bu­si­ness lands­ca­pe from what it was this time last ye­ar.

Too many com­pa­nies this ye­ar have pas­sed bey­ond mere ‘dis­rup­ti­on’ and he­a­ded straight to­wards cri­sis. I was la­men­ting this de­ve­lop­ment over a vir­tu­al mor­ning cof­fee, when my col­le­a­gue Mike Klys­zei­ko, Amc­ham Fin­land’s Di­rec­tor of Launch­pad USA, re­min­ded me of one of Al­bert Eins­tein’s, a proud Eu­ro­pe­an-Ame­ri­can, most fa­mous quo­tes: “In the midst of cri­sis lies great op­por­tu­ni­ty.”

His­to­ry has shown us that Ame­ri­cans na­vi­ga­te cri­sis well and tend to boun­ce back fas­ter from eco­no­mic re­ces­si­ons than ot­her count­ries. In the ye­ars fol­lo­wing the eco­no­mic col­lap­se of 2008, both the Eu­ro­zo­ne and the U.S. be­gan their eco­no­mic re­co­ve­ry in 2010. Ho­we­ver, the U.S. eco­no­my grew by about six per­cen­ta­ge points more (4,5 % more over three ye­ars on a per ca­pi­ta ba­sis). Prior to the co­ro­na vi­rus, the U.S. was in a pe­ri­od of growth that far out­pa­ced Eu­ro­pe’s. There are many struc­tu­ral re­a­sons for this. For ins­tan­ce, the ex­ces­si­ve debt ac­cu­mu­la­ted by hou­se­holds in the US had been wor­ked off more ra­pid­ly; on­ce los­ses or bank­rupt­cies had been re­cog­ni­zed pe­op­le could start over, rat­her than being shack­led to old debt for ye­ars. The U.S. al­so has a more fluid la­bor mar­ket, enab­ling com­pa­nies to swift­ly re­act to down­turns, let­ting pe­op­le go with “at will emp­lo­y­ment,” and pi­vo­ting ope­ra­ti­ons which al­low the pos­si­bi­li­ty of hi­ring ad­di­ti­o­nal staff in new and de­ve­lo­ping bu­si­ness are­as.

Now back to my mor­ning cof­fee with Mike; “Re­mem­ber what Eins­tein said, ‘in the midst of cri­sis lies great op­por­tu­ni­ty.’” Mike smi­led, ta­king a sip from his Moo­min mug, “Ame­ri­cans lean in­to cri­sis and find it a great time to start new ven­tu­res. You see some of the best com­pa­nies for­ming and be­gin­ning to grow du­ring ti­mes of cri­sis. These com­pa­nies are furt­her sup­por­ted by Ame­ri­ca’s rich pri­va­te equi­ty mar­kets. Ca­pi­tal is pou­red in­to those that show ear­ly signs of long-term suc­cess which ac­ce­le­ra­tes their growth. Com­pa­nies like Uber and Airbnb were foun­ded du­ring the ‘great re­ces­si­on’ of 2008.”

Much of Mike’s time is spent hel­ping com­pa­nies and Fin­nish pro­fes­si­o­nals un­ders­tand the comp­le­xi­ty, risks and ad­van­ta­ges of doing bu­si­ness in the U.S. He has hel­ped over 100 com­pa­nies find their way, “I think Ame­ri­can ent­rep­re­neurs go in with the un­ders­tan­ding that their new ven­tu­re is much more li­ke­ly to fail than suc­ceed. The­re­fo­re, they take big­ger risks un­ders­tan­ding that the up­si­de op­por­tu­ni­ty is far gre­a­ter than the down­si­de. I he­ard on­ce that we of­ten spend too much time thin­king about all the re­a­sons why so­met­hing may fail, when we ra­re­ly ask our­sel­ves, “what does it look like if it suc­ceeds and in a BIG way?” That thought pro­cess chan­ges yo­ur mind­set which chan­ges yo­ur be­ha­vi­ors and ac­ti­ons. I think Ame­ri­cans ge­ne­ral­ly get this bet­ter than many parts of the world.”

When I ref­lect on this ye­ar, it has been one of dis­rup­ti­on and one of great chan­ge, but it has al­so been one of great op­por­tu­ni­ty. I am loo­king for­ward to the bright fu­tu­re that will emer­ge from these trying ti­mes and to dis­co­ve­ring the com­pa­nies that will grow out of this cri­sis. I am ta­king a page out of the Ame­ri­can pla­y­book, loo­king ahe­ad with great op­ti­mism and see­king those new op­por­tu­ni­ties. I hope you are too.

Ar­tik­ke­li on jul­kais­tu SAM Ma­ga­zi­ne 4/2020-nu­me­ros­sa jou­lu­kuus­sa 2020.

Ale­xand­ra Pas­ter­nak-Jack­son, CEO at Amc­ham Fin­land, is wor­king to make Fin­land a more open and in­ter­na­ti­o­nal place to do bu­si­ness and to help Fin­nish com­pa­nies na­vi­ga­te the US mar­ket. She has taught on the im­por­tan­ce of net­wor­king as well as held non-pro­fit bo­ard po­si­ti­ons, both in Fin­land and the US. Ale­xand­ra holds an MBA from Haa­ga He­lia Uni­ver­si­ty of Ap­p­lied Scien­ces and a BA from the El­li­ott School of In­ter­na­ti­o­nal Af­fairs at the Ge­or­ge Was­hing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. She li­ves in Hel­sin­ki with her Te­xan hus­band and two kids.