Updated: Jul 20, 2022
In part 2 of this series, I talked about the history of transformation from Digital to Societal and finally to Impact Transformation. I also discussed how Covid has a great and lasting influence on how we look at the world. This post discusses two important consequences of Covid on transformation.
The Turning Point
The world is at a turning point. The changes in the economy and our society that were triggered by Covid had been in the making for years. Covid has only accelerated its evolution and adoption.
That was not yet the case at the beginning of the crisis. Many still hoped that it would only last a few months and that we would quickly return to normal.
Now that we are almost two years into the crisis, it is clear that Covid will not simply disappear, let alone the new habits we have adopted during this new reality.
There is a growing consensus that we must learn to live with the virus, adjusting to the new reality. Voices are being raised, for example, to rearrange the school holidays (more in winter, less in summer), to structurally move Carnival to the summer, to stop holding major events in winter, and so on.
Business leaders advocate the adoption of the new normal, which translates, among other things, into new and permanent regulations on remote working. A Covid inheritance that is here to stay.
But even if Covid were to disappear, this does not equate to our society bouncing back without further ado. Why shouldn’t we embrace new habits that have improved our (professional) lives significantly?
The Covid crisis has taught us many lessons. Let me elaborate on 2 important insights.
Lesson 1: Change is NOW!
People and businesses are usually rather conservative. For many years, decision-makers have repeatedly postponed the “timeline of change”, according to what suited them best.
Sometimes this was out of naivety and disbelief that their world, their industry, their business could change at all. Denial is and has always been our go-to medicine in the face of uncomfortable truths.
Sometimes, even deliberate policies to hold back evolution arose, in favor of the further exploitation of the existing (business) model. Many retailers have been ready for years to focus more on online sales and new digital business models. Yet, they have been putting the brakes on it, because the growth of online could jeopardize the profitability of the traditional business.
All these evolutions were rather easy to suppress. Until Covid.
Until Covid, we could suppress the shift to remote working. The arguments were that nobody really wanted it, that people would not work hard, that the technology was not ready, and so on. Meanwhile, we know better, and remote working has become part of our reality, nonetheless.
Until Covid, the car industry let us believe that electrifying our car fleet would take decades. Meanwhile, governments have established an imperative roadmap that must be accomplished by 2030.
Until Covid, the film industry insisted on never streaming new releases directly to the end customer. Today this is the new normal at Disney and many others.
Until Covid, few would have believed that our social model, our political structures, and even our democracy could have eroded. Today we see an unprecedented polarization. Suddenly everything becomes possible.
Changes are happening NOW, in the present moment while all of us go about our day. Sometimes it happens suddenly, sometimes it slowly creeps upon us. Above all, Covid made it painfully clear that those who cannot adapt to change, eventually go out of business.
Lesson 2: Bouncing back is NOT sufficient!
Slowly and hesitantly, we start accepting that the world will never be the same again and that new solutions, models, and approaches will be part of our daily life. In itself, this is nothing new. In fact, this is an intrinsic part of our existence, of human history: adapting to new realities.
Only, over the last 75 years, we have completely forgotten how to do so. This long-lasting, unprecedented stability created the illusion that the world as we know it would never change. Until Covid came along.
Luckily, people have always proven to be quite resilient in the face of a crisis. Being able to get back up and carry on after a setback. The past two years have been all about "bouncing back", the positive power to get back on our feet - after Covid - and get on with our lives.
Although this seems admirable, it is not the best reflex. After all, bouncing back implies going back to the situation as it was before. As if nothing changed at all. When in fact, we need to adapt to our new environment, as we get back up to continue.
Because of this, we much prefer to talk about "bouncing forward", a kind of smart resilience that does not take us back to where we came from but pushes us forward to better starting positions in a world that has changed.
Some examples to illustrate "bouncing forward":
As a restaurant owner, you can sit and wait until Covid is over and you can go back to the old way of receiving all your customers (bouncing back) or you can turn your model around and permanently focus on the combination of restaurant, takeout, and home delivery (bouncing forward).
As a business leader, you can expect your people to all come back to the office nicely after Covid (bouncing back), or you can adjust your policies and methods to insert hybrid work in the core of your organization (bouncing forward).
As a retailer, you can hope for a full recovery of visits and sales in your store (bouncing back), or you can smartly bet on a combination of in-store sales and online shopping (bouncing forward).
As an educational institution, you can count down the days until everything is back to normal on campus (bouncing back), or you can radically redesign your educational system and use hybrid education to organize the best solution for your students and teachers (bouncing forward).
Clearly, each of these examples takes vision, energy, and resources, but it is the way forward. So why wait any longer, now that Covid is forcing us time and time again to rethink our approach?
In part 4 of this series, we talk about the disruption that technological and social system shocks are currently causing in our economy and society. We need to look for the New Equilibrium.
Would you like to chat about the ideas? Contact us and we will make an appointment for a real or virtual coffee.
If you have a transformation challenge and you are looking for a vision for your company in the New Equilibrium, don't hesitate to contact us as well. We might be able to help you.