So, however many weeks we are into lockdown… how have your plans gone?
Did you learn to play the mandolin, or bake ornate cakes, or weave your own baskets or learn Sanskrit?
No? Me neither. Do you know what? You’ll get over it.
Truth be told, you probably didn’t care enough about any of the things that you could have learnt in your enforced sequestration to actually do anything about them. It was an opportunity, but, in the long run, the new skills you could have acquired just wouldn’t have made sufficient a difference to your life for the effort that learning them would have entailed.
However, there is one more chance that this situation has given you and it’s one that I guarantee you will care about and that you might come to regret bitterly if you don’t act on it.
It’s the chance to rip up all the things you hated about work and replace them with something that is better. Something that isn’t rooted in outdated thoughts, mechanisms, org structures and practices.
Dramatic? Yes? Worth considering? Certainly. Too scary for most people to embrace? Probably.
Don’t under-estimate this thought. You will probably never get a chance like this again. It is a genuine, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and as people start to make tentative plans to return to more conventional working routines there is a small window where you can either return to a version of what existed before, or take stock and decide what was of value and what aspects can be adapted, modified or completely dumped to make how your business operates better for everyone. Let’s face it, you will spend more time at work than you would ever have spent playing the mandolin anyway.
At Colour; Noun, one of our lockdown offers has been giving people the chance to assess the change that the pandemic has brought to their lives through the lens of other changes that they have experienced, using the monomyth theory outlined by Joseph Campbell that underpins all stories across times and cultures. We like it a lot, and will gladly take you through it, but the central premise is this:
Failure is the destiny of those who cling onto the past and who do not learn to adapt.
Don’t forget, this has been a world-wide phenomenon. This isn’t the challenge of a merger, or a rival launching a new product, or a new technological development to which you have to respond. For the first time in 75 years the smooth running of commerce, travel, trade, meetings and interactions has hit the pause button. If there was ever a time to experiment it is now.
The references to “war” that have accompanied the ravages of this virus are as hackneyed and trite as they are prevalent, but in this instance, there is a parallel that is worth drawing.
Consider the changes that came about after the First World War (votes for women, the demise of the servant class, the establishment of new nations, the Labour movement) and the Second World War (the collapse of the British Empire, the technological and manufacturing rise of Japan and Germany, the establishment of the Welfare State in Britain and the “never-had-it-so-good” growth of consumer capitalism as war production shifted to making washing machines, cars, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners in the UK and the US).
I’ll say it again. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-evaluate what you do and how you do it. Don’t go back to a version of what you had before. Think big. Dream bigger. Don’t limit your horizons and fall victim to the limiting beliefs that are enshrined in the stock response to a suggestion to change that is “yes… but…”
Things have been not-quite-right in business for as long as I can remember. We’ve worked with dozens of companies that have tried to address that and squeak another couple of percentage points on their annual Great Place To Work Employee Satisfaction Survey.
I reckon you have about six months to consider what you could do and start making the changes that will last, and that will, ultimately, bring you more joy than being able to play the mandolin.