Asking new questions to plan for the new world

Nov 27, 2020 | Impact makers

Now we’re at the lowest point on the crisis curve  – the part where we’ve got over the initial fatigue and “honeymoon” period – now we’re in the part where our analysis and plans will determine how we start again.

Will we go back to pre-covid times? Will it be worse? Or, as often happens in life transitions, will we evolve and find a higher point that allows us all to live better?

Let’s think about the world of work. We’re already analyzing how things went, searching for the formula that will allow us to live and work, helping us to best put those tow worlds together. Think the serendipity of a coffee break with the efficiency of digital meetings, the flexibility of working from home with the need to set boundaries and safety nets. We know that over the past few months, people have worked more (48.5 extra minutes per day, on average), and that meetings are around 20% shorter. But we also have 12.9% more meetings, with 13.5% extra attendees. We also know that we’re sending 5% more emails – maybe it doesn’t seem much, if we didn’t already know in 2020, we sent 306.4 billlion emails each day.

Some people feel that the optimum number of days working remotely is two rather than three, and that we must exercise our “right to unplug”. But nobody has really understood if the benefits of working from home outweigh the drawback of not having boundaries between different life dimensions.

Having worked in innovation for years, I’ve seen how difficult it is to change the way that we do things. But at the moment, I see the same dangers that occur every time when things change too quickly. The change is so big, we can only roll with it, instead of managing it.

Our “emergency” response to new needs becomes the foundation for future decisions.

But solutions found in times of emergency are not always optimal. They are short term solutions, solving part of the puzzle without making space for true innovation. It already seems as though the elements most relevant to the debate are bytes, miles and minutes. But we have the opportunity to really change how we work and live. We can change things to make them more tailored to people’s complex situations: the same people that have built a world that’s constantly changing and are responsible for making it more sustainable in future. Change isn’t about repackaging what we already have, like technology has done. Instead, we need to spend time working on our human capital, and the packaging can come later.

The weakest link in all this is that you can’t base it on data, because true innovation touches things that we haven’t tried, seen or done. Changing perspective and planning for something new requires us to work together for the common good. It’s not about relying solely on data, but also about sharing objectives and taking responsibility together. Everything that we’ll decide to do after the pandemic, how we’ll decide and the effects those decisions will have will never have a short-term impact.

Everything we believe to be unsustainable was already that way before the pandemic. So we need to have the courage to truly innovate, because there are always different and more innovative ways of doing things. But if we keep asking old questions, it will be impossible to make space for a new beginning. That’s ultimately how we’ll survive.

 

This article was originally written by our CEO, Riccarda Zezza, for Alley Oop, Il Sole 24 Ore. To read the original article in Italian, click here.

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