What CEOs learning from the COVID-19 crisis

Good morning.

About 40 chief executives who are members of Fortune’s CEO Initiative gathered virtually yesterday for a discussion of how to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting was under the Chatham House Rule, so I can’t quote particular participants. But the big takeaway for me was the degree to which this crisis is provoking business innovation. The general sense of the group was not just that we won’t return to normal soon, but that we won’t return to the old normal ever. Some general takeaways:

—Companies that previously had been slow to adopt to digital transformation now find themselves on a “burning platform.”

—The need for community is more important than ever, but the crisis is inspiring new digital methods for nurturing community that won’t go away.

—Responding to a crisis is “not about perfection,” which permits more innovation.

—“Work from home” rules have given everyone a better sense of the challenges working mothers face, and will spark progress in addressing those challenges in the future.

Two bits of wisdom for navigating the path ahead: Every organization should think about “what do we want to be when we come out?” And the emergence from crisis shouldn’t be thought of as a “great restart,” but rather a “great reset.”

Separately, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian spoke to Fortune’s Susie Gharib yesterday about having to furlough most of Hyatt’s U.S. employees.  “It has been a very, very torturous time,” he said.  “The way I would describe it is a conflict between our purpose as a company, which is to care for people, and the things we have to do because we are charged with ensuring the financial future of Hyatt.”

And GM CEO Mary Barra wrote a post responding to President Trump’s tweet attack on her—without ever actually mentioning the president. “In a time of crisis, we have to transcend the personal and come together for the greater good,” she wrote. 

More news below.

Alan Murray

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