In The Never Normal
4 strategies for uncommon results in an uncertain world
By Julie Winkle Giulioni
Shortly after the global pandemic changed the
face of the workplace, writers and leaders began
contemplating the new normal – how the world
would be once things settled down. Months in, as
reality took hold, the language shifted from ‘new’ to
‘next’ – as ‘normal’ became a moving target.
More than six months, hundreds of thousands of
lost jobs, and countless pivots in service of evolving
conditions and customer needs, it may be time to yet
again adjust our language when we talk about what’s
to come. It may be time to let go of expectations of a
return to what we used to know, and to acknowledge
that the kind of stability and predictability we enjoyed
in the past won’t return.
We’re Not Going Back
By all accounts, we’re not going back to normal
– or new or next. And a range of factors – many
established long before Covid-19 – are contributing
to today’s never normal again environment.
●● Organizations were already under productivity
and profit pressure – leveraging assets and
optimizing resources, doing exponentially more
with infinitely less.
●● Competition was coming from new and varied
sources. (Who would have imagined Amazon
getting into the real estate business?) As a result,
organizations were becoming more attuned, alert,
and anxious about protecting market share and
expanding their pieces of the pie.
●● Disruption was the name of the game in early
2020. Now the combination of a global pandemic,
economic downturn, and racial tensions (which
IBM cleverly described as today’s ‘trilemma’) has
left individuals and organizations feeling insecure
and standing on unstable ground.
●● Workforce dynamics are in flux as work-from-home
becomes the standard rather than the exception,
bringing with it a shift in the power dynamics and
the democratization of opportunity. Whether one
works as a VP at corporate headquarters or as a
supervisor out of a garage in Topeka, everyone
occupies the same size tile and has the same
volume voice in the new online workspace.
With so many forces and factors conspiring to
reshape the business landscape, we should not
expect a return to normal. On the contrary, we should
expect a kaleidoscope of change coming at an
unprecedented pace. Savvy leaders and employees
who recognize this new reality also recognize the
implications and the powerful opportunities for
growth and career development present within our
never normal environment.
Never Normal Means More Informal
The opportunities for growth are plentiful, but
only for leaders and employees who embrace new
approaches to learning and development. We can no
longer rely upon old, formal, programmatic formulas.
What’s needed are more organic, self-driven, and
informal means to mine the richness that the
workplace has to offer.
Four shifts can introduce infinitely more opportunities
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