After Covid-19: Speed Up Digital Transformation or Face Extinction (Interview)
After Covid-19: Speed Up Digital Transformation or Face Extinction (Interview)

How do we come out of the Covid-19 crisis? In a new series of expert interviews, MERIT gathers input from prominent voices in academia and business.

In the first interview in this series, Filipe Carrera, a speaker, coach, and university lecturer at IPAM Lisbon, explains why “this crisis was a wake-up call for most professionals”. Filipe has been named the “Most Outstanding Trainer in Europe” and “Most Outstanding Trainer in the World” by JCI. He has been a digital transformation evangelist for years, and has watched companies fail to implement necessary innovations – leaving them unprepared for Covid-19.

Digitisation in the wake of the pandemic will be a make-or-break issue for many companies, Filipe argues. Read on for his hard-hitting advice on how to make the most of this situation.


Covid-19 seems to have suddenly pushed digital transformation much further ahead. How are companies coping with this? Do you have advice on how they can adapt to a fully-virtual workplace more effectively?

In the last 5 years, I have been to many conferences where I heard again and again that we live in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous). I saw managers supporting this idea as obvious. But one of the things this crisis brought up is that it is one thing what managers say, and another what they do.

Digital transformation has been a good buzzword to put in a brochure, and a good justification to invest in hardware and software. Yet the most important element of the equation was forgotten: the human element.

Covid-19 put managers in the position that they had to evaluate people by the merits of their results and not by their presence. But also, employees have the golden opportunity to reflect about what is important in their own work. These two points should be the major take-aways of this crisis.


How can companies balance the need to go virtual ASAP against developing a long-term digital transformation strategy? What shouldn’t they overlook, and what are some of the dangers of switching to remote work overnight?

I think only machines can switch immediately. When we talk about humans, even with a crisis the change is gradual. It can be faster or slower, depending on the circumstances. Whoever thinks the contrary is deluded.

Humans need to socialise and to feel connected to their tribe (organisation), so the biggest danger is creating an asymmetric process where some people will feel that they are further from the decision-makers because they are working remotely, while others are at the office.

Acknowledging the importance of socialisation will result in the creation of specific times and spaces for quality socialisation and team-building.


Can the current transition to fully-virtual organisations help create more agile ways of working? If so, how? Could this be an opportunity to innovate, and how can organisations leverage that?

I believe that the current crisis will make organisations and professionals rethink the quality of work. We live in paradoxical times: we have the technology that we dreamt of years ago, and yet the way we work and evaluate that work hasn’t changed to keep up.

Those organisations and professionals that will get out of this crisis and believe they can resume business as usual will be facing a very ugly surprise.

Because the economic drop will be big, those who prepare themselves, especially in digital skills, will be the first to grow. The others might face extinction pure and simple.


After this, is there going back to non-virtual teams and organisations? How will work and corporate learning change long-term?

I think that, after Coronavirus, nothing will be the same. The changes will be visible in different degrees across corporations. The genie is out of the bottle: remote work is no longer the experience of a few, and e-Learning is no longer a useless way of gaining new skills.

Everything that we are experiencing nowadays was already a trend that was slowly imposing itself across society. What we are seeing now is the acceleration of the process.

A new generation of students and workers (Generation Z) that are the real digital natives were going to change everything, no matter what. In a way, this crisis was a wake-up call for most professionals.


Are you seeing positive, inspiring stories of how HR and L&D decision-makers are responding to the Covid-19 crisis? Who would you point to as an example for other leaders?

I can describe what happened at IPAM, a college specialised in marketing in Portugal, where I teach graduate and post-graduate programmes.

We shifted all face-to-face classes online in less than 48 hours. That was only possible because we had visionary leadership that anticipated the trends. We were able to implement distance education programmes back in 2014, creating the conditions for staff and instructors to start in a gradual way to do their own learning curve.

Most competitors had to bring all their programmes to a sudden halt and are lost doing trial and error because the skills were not in place, even though the trends were identified by all the key players.

In conclusion, it is easy to do diagnostics. The key is to act upon the demands of innovative thought and to muster the courage to do the hard work and implement changes when they are not seen as urgent. This is only possible with managers who are willing to risk failing. Unfortunately, I see more and more managers who are afraid of taking risks, which is, in my view, a contradiction of the definition of management.


To discover more about digital innovation and the future of work, claim your complimentary pass to the MERIT European Summit in Paris, 18 September – “Rethinking Learning in a Connected World”. This event for CHROs and CLOs is co-hosted by LinkedIn and will take place in Microsoft’s Paris headquarters. Places are limited – reserve yours now.