Harvard Business School surveyed 600 CEOs recently and asked them what keeps them awake at night during this global pandemic. The results found that almost every aspect of doing business must be completely rethought for both short-term survival and long-term success.

The issues cited fall into three main categories:

1. Continuous learning and integrating new information.

2. Making complex decisions and plans quickly and solving problems.

3. Empathy, maintaining wellness and focus.

I'm a big believer in lifelong learning. You don't go to school once for a lifetime; you are in school all of your life. Companies need to create a corporate culture that strives for continuous improvement.

In his 1995 book "Managing in a Time of Great Change," Peter Drucker, the late, great management guru, wrote: "It is a safe prediction that in the next 50 years, schools and universities will change more and more drastically than they have since they assumed their present form more than 300 years ago when they reorganized themselves around the printed book.

"What will force these changes is, in part, new technology; … in part, the demands of a knowledge-based society in which organized learning must become a lifelong process."

Students and teachers at all levels have had to adjust to remote learning, and that will not be just a passing fad. With a majority of people now working remotely, new systems have been developed in short order. I don't expect that to change as companies and employees recognize the benefits of working from home.

Many decisions were made within hours of lockdown announcements. Anyone who has management responsibilities understands that decisionmaking can be precarious. After you've done all your homework, when making decisions, I've found that you have to trust your gut. If I'm not sure, I check with people I trust to give me the knowledge on all sides.

As for planning, I like to say people don't plan to fail; they fail to plan. Things no longer rest on a predictable base.

Companies spend days, if not weeks, agonizing over their mission statements and business plans. It's not the sheer magnitude of the preparation that matters. It's the relevance of what you do. Is it clear? Will it change behavior?

A basic principle in the sales and marketing world is that people don't usually buy products and services. They buy solutions to problems. Successful salespeople and marketers tailor their products and services to meet a demand that is not necessarily immediately evident, but nonetheless very real.

Empathy is an emotion that is a sense of shared suffering. Compassionate acts attempt to alleviate that suffering as if it were one's own.

Where, you might ask, does compassion fit in business? Will it hurt the bottom line? Will it make our company look soft?

The answers are: at all levels, no, and definitely not. Compassion and profitability are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, companies that are perceived as people-oriented and good corporate citizens have a far better chance of succeeding than those that put profits ahead of people. In times like these, empathy will win the day.

Mackay's Moral: It's not about what you can't control; it's about what you can control.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.