Business leaders must build resilient organizations – Niyi Yusuf

Managing Partner at Verraki, a business and technology solutions firm, Mr. Niyi Yusuf, in this interview advises business leaders on how to build and nurture resilient organizations. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:


The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of organizations in every corner of the global economy, especially Nigeria. What are the lessons and how ready are organizations to face what comes next in terms of difficult situations like volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA)?

You have asked two questions: what we have learned, and our readiness for whatever comes next. Let me answer the latter first. No, we are not ready for whatever comes next and that is because we don’t know what can come, we don’t know when the next black swan event will happen. No one predicted COVID-19 or the impact that it would have, so it’s difficult to determine or guess what can come next. No one can ever be full-proof and ready for uncertainties, we can of course prepare so our readiness and response will be better and faster than what we did for COVID-19. We can prepare for crises but must also realize that we are not in control of every variable, even though we may pretend that we are, or wish so. We can only prepare ourselves to be more resilient to tolerate and absorb whatever comes, especially the low probability but high impact events. That said, if we step back and are humble enough to understand that there are many things we don’t know, perhaps, we can approach life differently. Another thing we have learned is that we live in an integrated world and something that happens in a corner of Wuhan or actions of a political leader in a country can impact the world. A third thing I have learned is that many businesses are built for normal situations, which is why many struggled during this pandemic. Another learning point is the need for resilient leadership, because the role of leadership is critical during uncertainties, to provide hope and guidance, whether in business or government. However, the most important thing I have learned is that while uncertainties may sound death knells for many organisations, they provide immense opportunities for a few who recognise them and are quick to take advantage. Many companies have become unicorns and quadrupled in value during the pandemic. Many companies are being formed now to respond to COVID-19 opportunities in New York, Delhi, Nairobi and even Lagos that in a few years, will disrupt the world. Because if we look back, Airbnb, Instagram, Whatsapp, Slack, Uber, Square and many iconic organisations were established in 2008 during the mortgage crisis. Disney, Revlon, Hyatt, Fedex, Google, Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft were formed during periods of significant economic crisis. Some great companies are being formed now that we will only get to know in another five years. The question for businesses is; will you be part of those great companies? Like they say, necessity is the mother of invention and every major crisis had provided opportunity to reshape the world. The current world order symbolised by the United Nations Organisation, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the Europe that we know today, were established based on the lessons of both world war I & II, while the dynamism of Japan came out of the ashes of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I know that the current coronavirus pandemic will birth some great innovations, companies and a new world order. I am hopeful that Africa and African businesses will be a part of this remold.


This interview has been published on This Day live