While businesses are returning to a “normal” state of operation, the question of what exactly “normal” means is being debated. Many believe that “normal” means business as it was before the pandemic producing and selling the same products hoping customers will return. Returning to the status quo that was comfortable, predictable, and profitable.
Others view the present conditions as the “new normal”. They view the pandemic as a black swan event that has induced significant change and returning to the status quo as impossible. They are introducing new products, modifying existing products, eliminating the odd products that do not fit in their portfolio, and streamlining for the future.
The question of learning from an impactful global event is something all companies, in all industries, large or small should take seriously. Can a company return to the status quo? No, the changes induced are too deep and permanent. The changes from the past year will only bring additional changes. Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote that “what got you here won’t get you there”. Clinging to the status quo of the old normal will leave companies constantly searching for answers on how to survive.
Those companies who accept the forced change as a time to learn about themselves, their products, and the new normal will quickly move ahead by streamlining and looking toward the future. Companies that understand the current normal is the new normal, seek to learn what the new normal means and search for new opportunities.
Learning is always difficult, filled with false starts with successes sprinkled in. The learning process starts with unlearning what was once successful, the status quo, and embracing new ideas, technologies, and developing new theories… thinking differently. A great example is education, once the domain of books, in-person classes, and physical facilities and buildings. Books are now available electronically, classes are delivered digitally eliminating the need for physical interactions and buildings.
At companies, large and small, move toward the future, the question can honestly be asked, “What have we learned?”
Dr. Lawson is an executive coach and a Professor of Economics and Strategy. He writes on business issues, education, and developing today’s modern executives. He can be found on Twitter @dplwsn and #TMIBS.