Updated: May 20, 2020
Photo by Tim Mossholder
We've all heard the expressions. "When things go back to normal"... or the slightly more daring, "new normal." In the business context we've stated these aphorisms countless times in recent months; especially during the obligatory 'human check-in' part of our many video or phone calls in the time of Covid.
The idea's pretty clear: a snap-back to the time and activity prior to coronavirus is inevitable. The curve is flattening. Active cases are slowing. And as states start to "re-open" they force the rest of us to begin in earnest to countdown the moments until the buzzy fuzziness of these last few months subside, the horizon reappears, and we can turn our attention to what actually comes next. But the reality of our situation is that across the board, though stores will reopen, government entities will come back online and churches will again be available for worship services, things really won't go back to what they were. And that's not necessarily a bad thing either.
There are a number of difficult moments that have been collectively shouldered by the American people in our storied history which we could pick as an example to prove our point, but to use just one, let's look at September 11, 2001. After the initial shock of the attacks of 9/11 had subsided, people eventually resumed their activities; I'm not suggesting they did it easily, or even willingly, but they did. In time, they got back to work, back to school, they got back to business, to innovation and creation, and they even got back to flying (in fact commercial air travel was, technically, only suspended for 2 days following the attacks.) Eventually we all got back in the air.
But did things go back to normal then? No.
Fact is, rather than going back to normal, we stepped back on those planes much more aware than before. We had our eyes peeled, and at the same time we were more reserved, more cooperative, less cynical. And around us a whole country responded; we designed new safety and security processes, airline and flight crew protocols, innovated new engineering for cockpit doors, armed air Marshals in plain clothes started flying incognito, new skyscraper designs and guidelines were enacted, new methods of wireless communication were developed, the government instituted multi-billion dollar new entities, the Transportation Security Administration to safeguard our travel industry and a new federal department and member of the executive branch cabinet, Homeland Security to deal with everything from terrorist threats to border protection to disaster prevention. In turn, those employed thousands of people, companies and whole industries sprung up around these novel government superstructures vying for a piece of the $60B budget they manage, and the private sector responded too with every kind of product, program. package and perk designed to solve for the new consumer reality. The implications were far reaching and long lasting; in fact we still live with them today. Nearly 20 years later.
Things never went back to normal.
Here's the thing. In the end, there really isn't a "new normal."
There's only a next stage of normal. And after the one we're in now, there will necessarily be another. The #NextNormal is the thing. And our job is to consider the #NextNormal in our business, our communities and our homes. The right question isn't when will things go back to the way they were, but instead what are the implications of our new reality to my business, my brand, my constituents, my products, my customers and how will those continue to evolve?
We'll be looking at a number of these items at our firm over the next several months. Real meaty subject matter too: from social distancing’s impact to pop culture, to the new value of "Live" entertainment, to new rules around physical venues, to contact tracing and temperature scanning technology evolution, to Tele-everything, to "contact-less" marketing to product innovation in hyper-drive propelled by a whole new @home product development modality. We hope these pieces help you as you consider what the #NextNormal is for your business, brand or organization. Of course, if we can help you think through these issues, let us know. It's what we do.
The #NextNormal is not something to be frightened of, but it can definitely catch you off guard if you’re not asking the right questions. Like any challenge, growth comes through trial, the key is how we respond.