The present is a foreign country – we do things differently here 

Many of the things we do and the way we do them are no more than habit. Not being able to do them is a great way to open our minds about what things we actually want and need to do and re think these “habits.” 

The work place habit 

Some people and some businesses will have seen the home work experience as a Eureka moment. If you can work effectively from home, saving travel costs for yourself and workplace accommodation costs for your business then you have discovered a win-win. There are middle ways of course – WFH every day, all day need not be the end game – but a working regime based on need and effectiveness rather than habit can be one good post – corona outcome, with attendant benefits for energy use and the environment. Not for everyone of course. It’s very easy for those of us with flexible work patterns to project this life onto others. Some peoples work style will need to revert to what it was – but for millions it need not. 

The meetings habit 

What are meetings? Generally the more senior you are in business or in any organization the more meetings you have. They are a badge of honour. But what do they achieve? Even where a meeting appears to produce decisions it’s often just a mechanism for conforming a decision already taken elsewhere. Some would say meetings are the things you do between work and that truth will have become more evident to more people now getting accustomed to the home work life. If we create new habits around non meetings we will be more productive.

Some people react to a changed environment by recreating the old one as far as we can. Pub nights on line might be an example – multiple on line work meetings might be another. Nothing wrong with this in moderation but try and consider what entirely new ways there might be to spend your time more productively.

The consumption habit  

If consumers don’t simply revert to auto-consume setting then many businesses need a major re- think. As consumers we will have spent much less over the last month. Certain expenditure has spiked – extra freezers, more technology costs, alcohol, food, toilet paper etc. But almost everything else has fallen, in some cases to zero. At the same time, personal debt has risen as many peoples incomes have fallen and despite government help, many will struggle. So businesses will have to work and to earn their share of a shrunken cake.

The employment habit

Some businesses will look at their staffing levels pre crisis and conclude that they can’t justify these levels. Further central investment will be required but in the context of great concern as to the level of national debt. Individuals affected by such decisions will need to re think their personal proposition and whilst this will be painful it may produce long term gain for all as individuals discover new opportunities.

The habit of strategy

I suspect that any company seeing strategy as an annual tinkering will be soon found wanting. You really have to consider your purpose, your strategy and your proposition. The key questions here has to be whether your purpose is clear, shared and felt by all the team and, most importantly, relevant to the new consumer.

The habit of life

Will people change radically? I’m not sure its right to be too sure about this. Sometimes after great crises there is a tendency to re-establish norms – to seek security from the familiar. The accidental benefits to the environment from reduced economic activity will be seen by some as a gain we must delight in and reinforce. But others will take the view that post crisis we can only focus on re building economic activity lest we suffer from long term down turn. It’s sometimes said “green or growth you can’t have both. “ I think that’s right and we have to decide which is most important.

The Present is a Foreign Country
by Brendan Llewellyn
Strategic Consultant