The Olympics haven’t been cancelled for this year after all. According to 2012 Honouree Vladas Lasas, this current moment is the Olympics for businesses. Everyone needs to find their inner athlete and put their energy towards recovery and building a new way of life.
Lasas has been an entrepreneur his entire career. He is Co-Founder of the Carbon War Room, Founder and CEO of UPS Lithuania, and an inventor. He is a leader for many. Always an advocate for quick and responsive action, we spoke to Lasas about the actions that he has taken in response to the crisis.
You’ve taken swift action to start new initiatives in response to the global pandemic crisis. Can you tell us what you’re working on?
“In mid-March, we started Hack the Crisis, which is now a global initiative. It is supported by the European Union and is attracting people globally. In the beginning, only small countries like Estonia and Lithuania were part of the initiative and we were surprised at how productive it was. We had 1000+ attendees joining; everybody managed to work on Zoom and Slack teams. Everything was almost as if it happened in person, even though it was on teleconferencing. It is incredible. We need to stay up-to-speed if we want to make an impact on the world and help people.”
How has the crisis affected your core business? How have you as a leader responded?
I am trying to help our CEOs with what can be done. In a time of crisis, there is a lot of opportunity to grow new leaders, to help them, to encourage and mentor them. I think it is better for everybody and for the future if you use the situation as an opportunity to grow leadership in your young colleagues.
You’ve previously told us that sometimes one has to be a rebel to make change. Is that what you’re doing now?
Yes absolutely. People are reluctant and, as always, a little bit afraid of change. One thing that institutions and officials do not recongise or understand is that democracies and their resources are optimised for an ordinary way of living. We are right now in a completely unprecedented situation. It is understandable that governments do not have resources to deal with this on their own. We have exponential growth of our enemy, and therefore we need stronger exponential growth in order to break the barriers.
What sorts of collaborations and partnerships are needed in order to respond quickly?
Institutions should not have any objections to accept help from professionals, academics, and the private sector, and let them do things that institutions in the government cannot. Sometimes in business the best people are outside of your company.
In democratic societies you can easily mobilise people. If you communicate in the right way and are open. That is really the test as to how democratic a country is, if you can accept help from people and let the professor work next to the minister and have a level understanding that the academic knows better in this situation. The Lithuanian National Health Authorities at first were really slow at communicating. The data was handled mostly manually. No system was prepared for this. In a few days, we managed to get the best IT guy next to the Head of Authority, and within a few days we got these pain points fixed. It’s only one example but I remember 30 years ago, early in Lithuania’s independence, we had some code to take over from the Soviets at that time. I worked with no official authority but I was working with the Parliament to help communicate and translate for journalists about what was going on. That was also without any approval or order or law for that. Red tape that is usually useful in ordinary times, needs to be cut.