Written by Roy Gilmore Kerr, director of Wallacespace.
Finding what the ‘new normal’ will mean for you and your business will undoubtedly require thinking ‘outside the box’; a box that most of us have been living in for the past 10 months; a rather solitary box, built by furlough and virtual meetings. It will require us to think collaboratively and innovatively. Can this type of thinking and planning really be done online? Perhaps, but not exclusively. We have already spent a great deal of our social capital in keeping teams together, and if we are to really understand challenges and effectively plan the future of our businesses, we must trade and test ideas and share our own unique understanding with colleagues.
Just as business adapted to lockdown and the accompanying challenges with speed, agility and a willingness to dispense with traditional layers of ‘red tape’, we must also apply innovative thinking to the huge task of planning our return to whatever ‘normal’ looks like in 2021.
We know that huge shifts in company fortunes happen as we emerge from downturns, given the increased risk but also increased opportunities in a changed landscape. It can be useful to view downturns as a hairpin bend in a racetrack – slowing down on the approach but accelerating out of the curve. Leadership teams must transform and adapt to negotiate the “moments of truth’ that present themselves. That in itself will be a huge task requiring serious planning. No doubt this has been taking place across the board and will continue as an exit path to the pandemic, such as a vaccine, becomes more certain.
However, we would sound a word of caution before we begin to accelerate out of this downturn. New business models that utilise newly available technologies will certainly have their place, but a truly innovative solution for the ‘new norm’ must begin by dealing with the legacy of the pandemic. The impact that almost a year of home working has left on people. Businesses need to really understand how teams have coped during that time. How they have dealt with the uncertainty, the lack of support, the absence of encouragement and inclusiveness and sense of belonging for team members.
Were they more or less productive? Did they enjoy the freedom of working from home or was it sometimes impossible to find a free moment away from house keeping and parenting? How difficult was it to maintain, let alone build, relationships with clients? How are people feeling about a return to the office and what is the lasting impact of such a swift move to virtuality on self-esteem and morale?
The point here is that businesses will need to really understand the lasting impact that the pandemic has had on individuals before they begin to build a new business model fit for the ‘new normal’.