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Reframing Change as an Opportunity for Innovation

By Tom Post

Change can be scary. It’s only natural to fear the unknown and reflexively resist any disruption to the status quo. However, recent events have forced us all to get a little more comfortable with change. From guiding our children and grandchildren through remote learning to maintaining social connections in an era that demands distancing, the COVID-19 pandemic has required adjustments to every aspect of daily life. Personally, I came out of retirement to help Sodexo navigate these waters and I am proud to contribute any way I can. So, consider this: could there be a silver lining to all this forced change?

In the second chapter of this year’s President to President series, Wofford College President Nayef H. Samhat, Ph.D., discusses what he calls “the gift of forced change.” He describes how periods of unexpected change can create momentum and innovation, leading to new ideas and creative solutions.

Higher education has experienced this concept firsthand in recent months. Institutions have had to rethink every aspect of the college experience, from how students and faculty interact to the way they live, work, study, and even eat.

Although living in a world altered by a global pandemic can be challenging, those challenges inspire a special kind of creativity. Meeting the needs of students, faculty, and communities requires rethinking the very essence of how we deliver programs and services.

For example, dining on campus has become more complex, with the need for social distancing and limited contact. Sodexo’s Bite mobile app was originally designed to enhance the campus dining experience by making it easier and more convenient, providing access to a wealth of information about dining venues, menu options, nutrition, and ingredients. We knew the future of the app included broader use, such as mobile ordering and delivery. It became crystal clear to us that the time was now for the Universities version of Bite to come to market quickly and to safely provide dining options when campuses reopened this fall by ramping up for contactless payment and more.

Bite is just one example of how the pandemic, if we allow ourselves to be agile and nimble, can accelerate opportunities for growth and innovation. Colleges, schools, and businesses were already investing in digital tools and other technology to address the preferences of current and future generations on campus, but now the benefits of these advancements, if built for the long-term, will remain and pave the way for a highly engaging consumer experience.

Although this year has been relentlessly challenging, it has given us the chance to marvel at the tirelessness of human ingenuity. When faced with difficult problems, we rise to address them together, with innovation and optimism. In that way, change can indeed be an opportunity and a gift.

September 25, 2020

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