“One of the things that we’re discussing already is that in order to return to some semblance of normal, people will have to feel comfortable that they’re safe. Some of that could come in the form, ultimately, of a vaccine, but. in the absence of that, it could come from basically, more scrutiny, more restrictions. Just as we now do bag checks for everybody that goes into our parks, it could be that at some point we add a component of that that takes people’s temperatures, as a for-instance,” Bob Iger / Executive Chairman / The Walt Disney Corporation
The above quote, taken from a Barron’s interview with longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger, is among the more incisive and insightful communications I’ve seen about what a post-COVID world could look like for sectors such as tourism, entertainment, sports, and, most likely, many others. In just 89 words, Iger foreshadows the long-lasting societal impact of the pandemic while also managing our expectations about the safeguards that may become commonplace.
“…some semblance of normal…”
From the outset, Iger makes clear a post-COVID world will be different from our pre-COVID world by suggesting that we won’t be returning to normal, but, rather, “some semblance of normal.” Putting his forward-looking comments in front of that backdrop, Iger prepares us for the measures we’ll have to accept and accede to before we can access larger venues.
“…people will have to feel comfortable…”
Iger then makes the point that the primary challenge will be to make people “feel comfortable that they’re safe.” Here, again, his choice of language is purposeful. It won’t be enough for us to be safe in theme parks or stadiums from a medical point of view. We’ll need to feel safe and become comfortable doing things in group settings that seem riskier post-COVID.
“…more scrutiny, more restrictions…”
Having established this context, Iger delivers what’s likely an unwelcome prognosis: When current restrictions are lifted, new restrictions will take their place. Iger layers on an added dimension to this notion later in the interview, noting “customers will demand that we scrutinize everybody” – bridging us back to what we’ll need to see in order to feel safe in groups.
“…take people’s temperatures…”
To illustrate what additional scrutiny could look like in practice, Iger offers a “for-instance” of taking people’s temperature before they enter Disney theme parks. This is as much a metaphor as it is a trial balloon. By proposing actual symptom screening, Iger is also figuratively taking people’s temperature on the kinds of intrusive scrutiny we will be asked to endure.
“…just as we now do bag checks…”
Iger contextualizes temperature checks by comparing them to the security that checks have been common since 9/11. Iger was Disney’s Chief Operating Officer at that time and led their response to reports that Disney parks or studios could be terrorist targets. Drawing a parallel to those now-accepted types of screening, Iger makes added screening seem natural.
Disney isn’t alone in weighing these options, but Iger’s opinions are given added weight by other private and public sector leaders. That’s not to say Iger has all the right answers, only that this particular answer is a thoughtful and layered example of how to respond to the questions on all our minds. Other business leaders should emulate its brevity and clarity.