Denise Kohnke

CEO Influenza?

Have you had your shot of resiliency yet?

If our CEO survey is any indication, the “can-do” spirit is still alive and well. As cultural Venn diagrams representing now and the near future collide – COVID, FLU, ELECTION, BLM – resiliency seems to be many CEO’s medicine du jour.

But what if there’s a better drug than simply being able to recover quickly and go back to the same shape, which is the definition of resiliency. What if evolution to something stronger and better was the outcome of these mega-influences on business and culture?

Which takes us to the difference between resiliency and strategy. While resiliency helps you get back to normal, what if normal no longer exists as we remember it from way back in 2019? Strategy is the art of informing action with calculated risk based on the ability to predict the future. For instance, lots of people predicted the pandemic. The flu is expected to be severe this year. The election always causes turmoil. And the Black Lives Matter movement was necessary, and a long time coming. All of these influences will ramp up to change our collective normal permanently. If you look long enough at the horizon from here, you begin to see the pathways of invention that will define the new collective normal and future business success.

Resiliency, to be sure, is necessary to ride the storms of change that are impacting business right now. Resiliency is comforting. Beyond all the existential threats, practical internal storms, such as loss of income, disruption of supply chains, evolving customer decision journeys, flexibility as employees basic needs change, are also unsettling.  Now, more than ever, is the time to ask, “Is there a better way?” because most CEOs are not currently the way they were, and not many want to stay the way they are.

As we look at this flu-like season of change, those of us at Merit encourage everyone to metaphorically bend, but not break. Wear a mask and get vaccinated so you avoid immediate debilitating illness. And then, think about evolving to whatever it takes to be well, regardless of the Venn diagrams looming in the future.


Denise Kohnke

COVID-19 CEO Survey

Back when COVID-19 was in its diabolical toddlerhood, circa May 2020, Merit asked CEOs from a diverse pool of sectors about their perceptions of COVID-19, and how they were tangibly handling its impact. These were not P&G, Google, General Motors CEOs, but CEOs of arguably the most important strata in the U.S. economy: small to medium-sized.

Adam Vasquez
The Confidence Market

Thanks to COVID-19, we're all relearning how to do the things we were once experts at. We’re relearning our relationships and how we interact. We’re relearning how to be a customer, teacher, CEO, marketer, sales executive, investor, ect. And with everything happening so fast, the relearning curve is extra steep.

Denise Kohnke


What might be the hardest part of being a leader? The expectation of fearlessness, as in the whole “fearless leader” facade. Crushing, isn’t it?

Denise Kohnke

Everyone defaults to denial at some point. It’s the brain’s way of lining up all of our implicit biases and testing them against harsh realities. Ironically, it’s because we’re trying to make sense of things with mental shortcuts. Now, in the time of COVID-19, as we all feel the need to move fast, CEOs might want to be especially mindful of biases, especially the biases that support denial and impede invention during crisis.

Denise Kohnke

COGNITIVELY COVID: The CEO Guide to Acting Fast

You’ve likely heard the term “first movers” in the context of new sector growth. Moving first to take advantage of opportunistic pathways thanks to COVID-19 is almost a new sector unto itself. One website we love,, is a global gathering of hundreds of new products, new apps, new wrinkles to existing services all in the name of the new world.

Adam Vasquez

The 10 Truths of the COVID-19 CEO

In the midst of loosening lockdowns and tightening restrictions, dropping infection rates and second waves, CEOs must adjust to new truths in changed industries. During many conversations with my peers, a few of those truths have surfaced time and again.

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