Recession Survival Kit

Critical Thinking. Analytical Models. Descriptive examples


As SARS-COV-2 spreads throughout the world, businesses are gearing up to adapt. More than ever, we need to become skilled in creative problem-solving.

To try and do our bit to help, we have created a compact, practical, business survival toolkit which provides analytical tools to structure your thinking/planning and examples of organisations that have successfully adapted to rapidly changing external conditions, so that you can future-proof your business in the challenging weeks and months ahead.

We propose to you three main analytical models, that will help you navigate through the current challenging situations. In order to better understand these models, we selected for you several examples that illustrate how businesses can become resilient, innovative and adaptive.


1. Ask the right questions and adapt for resilience

Double Loop Learning

In contrast to single-loop learning (which is often used for predictable and stable environments), which asks people how to do things right, double-loop learning asks what are the right things. Double Loop Learning is associated with a far more fundamental question, which invites us to reconsider our basic assumptions and think beyond acting within simple patterns.

Picture source:

TIPS: Single-loop learning stands for optimisation and efficiency, while double-loop learning stands for adaptation and resilience.

Read more: Argyris C., ‘Teaching Smart People to Learn’, Harvard Business Review, May – June 1991


2. Identify your Core Competencies

In order to become resilient, it is important to understand your core competencies. 

Core competencies are those things that you do for your customers better than your competitors. Knowing these allows you to ask yourselves how they could be transferred into new, more distant marketplaces. It is time to adapt, not optimise.

Core competencies have three primary characteristics:

“First, a core competence provides access to a wide variety of markets […] Second, a core competence should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product… Finally, core competence should be difficult for competitors to imitate.” Prahalad, C. K. & Hamel, G., 'The Core Competence of the Corporation', Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1990

TIPS: Consider asking and involving your employees, customers, suppliers, etc. in identifying your core competencies. 


Read more: Prahalad, C. K. & Hamel, G., 'The Core Competence of the Corporation', Harvard Business Review, May-June, 1990 


3. Use Associative Thinking 

Whilst managers are good at using a better understanding of their core competencies to identify opportunities that are cognitively close to their business, managers need to learn to recognise similar underlying patterns in distant markets and make the cognitive leap.

What core competencies do you have that are transferable to other markets? 

For example, FujiFilm applied the Ansoff Matrix to leverage their photographic film knowledge to enter new medical and telecom devices markets.

TIPS: check out the response from the defense and automotive industries in producing medical equipment for healthcare systems.  

Picture source:


Gavetti, G., ‘The New Psychology of Strategic Leadership’, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2011
HBR Video on The Explainer: Core Competence 


4. Make sense of where you are and identify suitable practice

The Cynefin Framework 

It provides a framework for defining the nature of the problem, adding new dimensions for sense-making other than the usual tendency to simplify, standardize and create best practices. In a crisis, adopting a simple approach may push the business into a chaotic space, where recovery is very expensive.

TIPS: check out Dave Snowden’s video for how to use the framework. 

Read more: Cynefin St David’s Day 2019 articles on Cognitive Edge blog [picture source]


Becoming resilient beyond COVID-19 [examples]

  • Farmec Cluj has leveraged its core competence in Over The Counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals and FMCG healthcare products to launch hand sanitizer brands, supplying first-line health care workers and other public servants. Aware that this crisis presents an opportunity to familiarise customers with their products and embed new brands to grab market share. Cosmetic Plant and Dacia Plant have also launched new hand sanitizer brands.
  • Dyson (famous for their hand dryers) is using their innovative consumer engineering competencies to develop and manufacture new types of ventilators that will enable them to develop a footprint in the medical devices market.
  • Ventila TM project is connecting medical professionals and academics using 3D technologies provided by a start-up based in Timisoara to produce ventilators.  Can somebody use this experience, beyond the COVID-19 crisis, to create value and enter new markets?
  • Representatives from the Romanian automotive industry (Dacia Renault and Ford) are working on prototypes for mechanical ventilators, to make use of engineering competence and surplus production capacity. Can they make the cognitive leap beyond this crisis and establish new revenue streams?
  • An energy Co. from Targu-Mures was fast to design, test & certify a mechanical ventilator in partnership with the Targu-Mures University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Sciences and Technology (UMFST).


Early Learning from Corona situation 

  • The end of Retail? After huge growth in online shopping will we go back to the traditional shops?  Retailers will find innovative ways to leverage their core competencies or wither and die.
  • Property value. Do we need to be in the office, the gym, or the mall physically?  Gyms & trainers using online platforms to offer interactive classes and provide new services such as nutrition and well-being services e.g. 7 Card opened an online video hub for fitness and leisure activities. Companies like Emag are looking at office space more carefully, as remote working is having a positive impact on productivity for them. How many physical spaces will be replaced by Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Signal, Hangouts, etc.? See how are defining this crisis as an opportunity to create demand.
  • Try new things. is a national platform aggregating competencies and resources for the production and distribution of face shields. Similarly, the University of Hull is working with a local molding company to produce essential face shields to protect medical staff.  Can any of those involved use this experience, beyond the COVID-19 crisis, to create value and enter new markets?
  • Technology enables the associative leap. Giants like Apple and Google developing apps to trace the spread of infection, as a means of establishing credibility in new medical markets. Streaming is turbo-charging the convergence of tech & globalisation around media channels like TV.


Communicate with customers

  • Use online platforms in order to connect customers to better leverage the existing use of core competencies. Eg. online baking courses delivered by bakery shops, wine tasting courses, online cooking shows delivered by restaurants, online tours and materials promoting holiday destinations. Hatfield House Bar in Belfast started delivering draught beer directly to their customers’ front door, as have producers of bio/organic food.
  • Explore new types of products to keep your customers loyal. eg. vouchers, membership cards, etc 
  • Ask Customers to help you identify core competencies and where associative product and market opportunities could be leveraged.
  • The commitment shown during the crisis represents an opportunity to reach beyond price if you can connect your brand(s) to customers' intrinsic needs, beyond any transactional value.
  • Give. If you are able to help customers in a time of need it is likely to be unusual and may be transformational.  Many will not forget….


How we can help you?

In this recession survival kit, we have shown how the use of 4 analytical models together can inform your decision making and enable you to thrive. Transilvania Executive Education encourages and enables interconnected thinking, and nurtures responsible leadership. We help companies and businesses to employ models of critical and analytical thinking and apply them locally in order to become more resilient and adaptive in the face of complex challenges.

If you need help in using these models for your business, please Această adresă de email este protejată contra spambots. Trebuie să activați JavaScript pentru a o vedea.. We look forward to helping you.

TEE team [Andy, Andreea, Bianca, Ovidiu]


Useful websites to continue the research:

Hull University Business School Special Webinar Series on COVID19 impact

The Economist

Financial Times

Harvard Business Review 

Ziarul Financiar 

Ministerul Finantelor Publice