And What About the “New Normal”?
Updated: May 6
When the earthquakes hit Mexico in 1985 I was on my first day of autumn break. For the next month, my family didn’t see much of me, and I was completely dedicated to the relief efforts, working at shelters and disaster areas. We all knew that life-as-we-knew-it was forever changed, but we didn’t know exactly how it was going to change. For the next decade or so after the earthquakes, I witnessed how society slowly moved from a sense of resignation to the corruption of the political party in power, to a sense of empowerment and possibility which, in my opinion, was the result of the fact that civil society took the earthquake relief efforts in its own hands in a coordinated, efficient, and organized way, something the government was not able to do. The earthquakes precipitated the democratization of Mexico.
Years later, we’re now going through another life-changing event, and we know that life-as-we-knew-it will not be coming back anytime soon, and most likely, ever. The same way that our lives changed after 9/11 and after the Great Recession, we will adapt to the new normal since we are resilient beings, but the question is how? I don’t have an answer, and I’m pretty sure nobody has one, but I think there are some emerging truths that could provide clues as to what’s next. Below I describe three of these ideas and include some questions that could help you think about the future of your organization:
We can see clearly how social ecosystems work. One of the truths that the pandemic has made evident is how essential it is to create opportunities to strengthen the whole system, especially the most vulnerable. You probably have seen memes about how janitors and sanitation workers are being cheered and clapped for their work, something very few would pay attention to before. The idea of generating value for the entire ecosystem in which our businesses operate was already on the air, and now it has become evident for most.
How is your organization contributing to elevate and generate value for your communities as opposed to taking value from them?
Equity is more critical than ever. Putting the interest of the few over the most doesn’t work when we see how interconnected and dependent on each other we all are. It’s more evident than ever before how much we depend on grocery store clerks, delivery people, or agricultural workers, for example. But our systems are still designed to favor extracting value for the benefit of few, despite the fact that we can see clearly how we’re just as strong as our weakest link.
How is your organizational culture focusing on strengthening your whole ecosystem instead of looking at short-term gains and unilateral value?
This is truly a global event and we all are focused on similar experiences. Besides the World Cup or the Summer Olympics, few global events have as much of an impact on as many people on the planet at the same time. We all are experiencing similar situations and emotions, and we all are being impacted in similar ways. Despite our cultural differences, we all are looking for experiences such as safety, security, community, or duty. And maybe a bit of redemption, too. Each culture has different ways to express and realize these experiences, but the meaning at the core is the same.
How does your organization evoke experiences that provide the meanings that we all are looking for, including its different cultural expressions?
Crises are opportunities for systemic change. How we’ll emerge from this crisis will determine the future of our generation and those to come, and we already have the blueprint. We just need to make it evident.