How to Not Waste a Crisis: Mindfully Manage ‘In-Betweenness’ – MIT Sloan Management Review

Written by Shameen Prashantham

Learning to harness the benefits of transitional periods is helpful for coping with the challenges of COVID-19 and also important for planning future strategies.

As companies continue to grapple with the impact of COVID-19, a valuable insight they can bring to strategizing new paths forward relates to coping with the state of limbo — a sense of “in-betweenness” — experienced in a major crisis. One valuable source of insight into this state is the concept of liminality from social anthropology. Arnold van Gennep, a French anthropologist, coined the term in the early 20th century to describe the threshold period between two phases of life — for instance, what adolescents might experience during certain rites of passage.

During a crisis, liminality can be a pervasive, shared experience for people across communities. Learning to harness the benefits of liminality is helpful for coping with the challenges of COVID-19 and is also important beyond the pandemic, given the likelihood of aftershocks from or recurrences of the coronavirus crisis and the emergence of other uncertain events in the future.

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By Jessica Yap-Chung
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