Brace yourself.  We aren’t going back.  We won’t ever go back to the “old” normal.  Whatever that was for you, the future is going to be different.   

The “new normal” isn’t going to stick around long either. Expect a succession of “next normals” as we find our way. 

In the kinder, gentler past of, say, January 2020, the idea of “normal” basically meant that next week and next month could reasonably be expected to resemble this week and this month.  Or last week and last month.  Not so now.

So many things have changed, irrevocably. To consider only a few examples:

  • Supply chains are being re-thought, for health care, food, manufacturing, for almost everything.
  • Online shopping has become even more normalized – traditional retail is going to be even more challenged.
  • Essential Services used to mean a small number of things, but suddenly we have a much more nuanced view that includes truck drivers, grocery store workers, and so many more. Airline pilots and professional sports – not so much. (For an interesting current (May 2020) perspective on the airline industry from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) – go here).
  • Our model of work has been forever changed – many more of us than we ever imagined can work from home or anywhere. Managing may be harder, but tools are more capable than we imagined. The people who need to go to an office or workplace will think twice about transit, elevators, lunch lines, cubicles, physical distancing, PPE, and so much more that we never thought about before.  The “next normal” for work is going to be a work in progress.
  • Commercial real estate is going to be turned on its head and will be changed in complex ways. Not so much demand for space, but maybe more space for every person, because “packing people in to cubicles” suddenly seems so … 2019.

The list goes on, to public transit, health care gaps we’ve found, how we use public spaces …. and so much more.

When will all this end?  When we are 90% immunized, likely by a vaccine.  When will that happen?  That depends on a lot of factors that no one person or government controls. If we find a good treatment for this disease, that will help a lot, but what we really want is a vaccine.  Otherwise we’ll go through waves of infection, and even with good treatments, that will be challenging to our medical, economic, and mental health and ultimately our social well-being.  But until then, all the big and little changes we endure will change our expectations, or capabilities, and eventually, the status quo.

What we do at Adante is scenario planning, and data analysis, and business strategy.  We help companies figure out how to navigate (sometimes very) choppy waters.  Some companies will make it, some won’t.  We are reminded of The Wish, a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, which starts with the lines:

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.

You may be focused on survival.  If you are, do that – survival comes first. But if you can raise your horizon above that, you should consider which of your competitors may thinking about the future too. Thinking about how your industry might change.  How your position in it might change. Or whether something here presents an opportunity for you. For many firms the next version of the game will be much more “digital” and that journey will be challenging.  We can help you develop your roadmap, and “set your sails” as you set out to find both your next normal, and your next version of yourself.

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