Don’t waste time holding out for “normal” to return

Like you, I am spending hours each day in video calls with clients, friends, family and people I am trying to encourage during the COVID19 lockdown.

Have often do you hear people say “in two weeks this will be over?” or, “I think I am coping well under the circumstances?”.

How often do you hear people exclaim “when things get back to normal then…”?

In my mind, I cannot imagine us going back to normal.

In our country, too many poor people and small enterprises would have been affected by the pandemic. Even if no virus comes anywhere near them, their worlds have changed. Savings may be depleted. Suppliers and clients may not re-open. Governments resources to support the economy may be greatly reduced. All of this will not be undone on the day or the weeks after the lockdown ends.

Yes, I know that some things may also change for the better. Maybe some new entrepreneurs will grow the confidence to start their ventures. Hopefully, the inadequate infrastructure and the lack of basic services in large parts of our country will not be forgotten in the next planning cycles. I believe many new champions in essential services and goods will be tempered during this time. I understand that not everybody will be affected to the same extent.

I know this all sounds very gloomy. My question is, why settle your hope on getting back to normal?

What is normal anyway?

Do we really want to go back there? A few months ago, we were all complaining about how terrible the “normal” was. Just think back to the headlines about Brexit or the local politics. Just think back to how busy you were, of the things that bothered you. I can recall conversations with many of my clients about how they never have time to read or think, or how disempowered their staff were.

I urge you to set a higher standard than “the normal”. I beg you to use this time to purposefully design and build the kind of enterprise and innovation culture that you and your team desire. Start forming the new habits, routines and patterns right now.

When you plan, don’t (only) plan for the days after the lockdown ends. You have to think about how the world has changed. Carefully consider the state of the people that you depend on, in your organisations, your suppliers and your clients. Think of fundamental shifts that you have to respond to, but also ponder the things that you can influence or change. While imagining the new normal you want to shape, be mindful of the physical and emotional states of the people that you have to work with. It may take some extra effort to encourage and lift up the people around you.

Above all, you cannot now afford to only think in the short term. You cannot only think of your local context. During this COVID19 pandemic, we could hear and see daily reports of how our countries are interdependent. Our own socio-economic well-being is tied to what is going on in the rest of Africa and the world.

Lastly, don’t be selfish. Think of your organisation’s role in the communities all your people interact with, of the society and the environment you are part of. Make sure, that as far as possible, your organisation is unleashed to make this space that you work in better.

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