Transitioning to a New 'Norm'*i

Bill Synnot, Management Consultant *i, Bill Synnot And AssociatesBill Synnot, Management Consultant *i

Making predictions is not easy. Predictions made in late 2019 for 2020 now appear meaningless as virtually no-one predicted the world-wide pandemic and its impact.

This article will discuss 4 predictions for 2021 with a focus on the pandemic’s impact. However, 4 macro elements need to be acknowledged firstly as providing the overall framework within which these predictions will occur:

• technology (continuing technological breakthroughs like around the Internet of Things, with some more disruptive than others)

• climate change (improved climate change mitigation as renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, etc.)

• global tensions (on-going global tensions that will require more nuanced strategies to reduce them, for USA vs China vs Russia, Middle East, etc.)

• local and global socio-political-economic challenges (efforts to solve these ongoing challenges, such as mass migration, ageing population, wealth inequalities, trade wars, tribalism, etc.)

Prediction 1 – end of old ‘norm’

Any expectation of returning to the pre-COVID status quo is misplaced. We are evolving to a new ‘norm’ and the final shape remains unclear.

Already the pandemic is changing how we work, live, communicate, shop, entertain and socialise. It has challenged our notion of ‘normal’, and is pushing people outside their comfort zones and challenging the status quo, established mindsets, habits and routines.

Prediction 2 - VUCA will dominate

‘VUCA’ (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) will provide the tone of 2021. To handle VUCA effectively, we need to be very flexible, adaptive, innovative, agile, robust and resilient – and have an embracing attitude to this dynamism.

Prediction 3 – more flexible working arrangements

Pre-pandemic, most people worked away from their home. With the lockdowns, more people started working remotely from home. This has created tension within families as children are studying or playing while adults are working in family homes that are not set up to handle all these different activities simultaneously.
An immediate impact of remote working has been the reduced demand for commercial office space.

This trend to more flexible work arrangements is expected to continue in 2021 and beyond. It is part of a trend which shifts more responsibilities and costs from organisations to individuals.

As social animals, we need continual social interaction; face-to-face communication is important. But remote working is reducing the opportunity for this social interaction and is laying the foundations for increased mental health issues like depression, drug addiction, anxiety, loneliness, domestic violence, etc.

Improving our emotional intelligence (EQ) may be the best strategy for counteracting this. The core EQ elements are:

• self-awareness (ability to understand our own emotions and their impact, including recognition of our cognitive biases)

• self-management (ability to control our own emotions)

• social awareness (involves empathy and awareness of other people's emotions including cognitive biases)

• relationship management (involves social skills which facilitates effective communications, negotiations, listening, coaching, etc)

Prediction 4 – Creativity (developing new ideas) and innovation (implementing new ideas).

They will assume even greater significance if we wish to thrive.

We need to consciously change our mindsets and approach things differently, ie see and do with new eyes.

Some examples of organisations innovating successfully around their core competencies:

- gin distilleries and cosmetic manufacturers making hand-sanitisers

- car manufacturers making ventilators

- clothing manufacturers making face masks

- a manufacturer of theatre props producing home office furniture

- window designer making protective screens for hospitals, shops and offices

Some useful tools to help with creativity and innovation include fan concept, 6 thinking hats, Po, random word, odd person in, scenario planning, etc.

Best of luck for 2021.

i) For more details on the above visit

ii) MD of Bill Synnot and Associates (named as one of top 10 Change Management Consulting/Services companies in APAC (2019) by a leading international HR journal and the 'Best Specialist Change Management Consultancy 2020 - Australia' by an international business magazine)