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Doing business in the new weird

Welcome to my third blog post about the #newweird. It looks like Ground Control has given us permission to leave our own private Covid-19 capsules and venture out into the old but new space.

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

Space Oddity – David Bowie

Doing business in the new weird

We’ve done what was asked of us and collectively battled an exponential threat. For a number of people, I imagine that this was like untying the knot on an inflated balloon and releasing it. Out the door on a mad and unpredictable exploration we go!

For others, I think that capsule life has been a rediscovery of some literal home truths. That family matters enormously and that simple things such as cooking together, eating together and having a physically-close shared experience have real value. For these people, I think the exit from the capsule is going to be a little bit more considered and tentative.

From my perspective, we do have to venture out. Not just for economic reasons but for wider reasons that are described in this paragraph from Dave Snowden:

"In general, if a community is not physically, temporally and spiritually rooted, then it is alienated from its environment and will focus on survival rather than creativity and collaboration. In such conditions, knowledge hoarding will predominate and the community will close itself to the external world. If the alienation becomes extreme, the community may even turn in on itself, atomising into an incoherent babble of competing self interests."

When I read that, I started to reflect about how easy it is to develop a fortress mentality to deal with a potentially hostile external world. For me, living within a social or self-created fortress is not what represents the best of humanity. That’s the kind of situation that occurred in the Middle Ages. Life was maybe okay if you were one of the few that owned the castles, but the life of a serf was nasty, brutish and short.

I’m hoping for a more Renaissance-like future – getting out of the castle and sharing ideas with a wider population. This was the period after the Middle Ages that generated huge innovations in architecture literature, mathematics, music, philosophy, politics, religion and technology. 

Historians have identified a number of the catalysts for this massive cultural uplift, such as increased interaction between different cultures, the rediscovery of ancient texts, the emergence of humanism, a range of artistic and technological innovations and, last but not least, the impacts of global pandemics.

I think there are parallels with the situation we are facing. And I see digital technology as one of the means to pivot away from a Middle-Ages mentality and to embrace a Renaissance outlook.

When I start to look at our possible futures, I see new opportunities, economic and social, that are emerging from the recent constraints we have been living within. But to make it clear, this isn’t the same as going back to normal. The new weird is here to stay for quite a time. The analogue world is still under threat. Parts of the world are still stuck in their capsules or making economic wellbeing vs social well-being trade-offs.

So the question I’ve been asking is: Is this trade-off strictly necessary? What are the means and methods that we can use to forge a Renaissance future?

As I see it, and as I’ve recently experienced it, we have to transition away from an expectation of simply going back into the old analogue world. We have to blend our analogue lives with a brave new digital world.

Now, I know that a number of you will say that we already do this; we’ve embraced digital, we’re digital natives. I can’t argue with the pervasive use of digital technology, but I think we have been regarding digital as a means to augment or assist an analogue reality. I think there is a new reality, and it’s more than augmentation and increased convenience. It’s a fundamental merging of the digital and analogue into what the futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson calls the digilogue.

For me, the digilogue is the liminal world that we are now living in. It’s our constraint-buster. It’s how we can safely expand our bubbles. It’s the way we can leave the capsule, clad in a safe and secure digital space suit that still allows us to operate in an analogue way. In the digilogue, we can shake hands without sharing viruses, we can interact without infecting.

In my previous blog “Welcome to the new weird”, I talked about the new rituals, rhythms and boundaries that I’ve been applying to my own domestic and professional situation. I think that some of the things I’ve applied are, in essence, digilogue behaviours. I’m of the opinion that the corporate world is going to have to go through a process of defining digilogue-ready rituals, rhythms and boundaries at scale. For me it’s a fascinating challenge, as it may require the reinvention of all or parts of our business models. This is going to involve a mass exploration of new possibilities and challenges. I’ll be looking at some of these in my next blog.

So, to close out on the David Bowie theme – “We can be heroes.”

In the digilogue, I think being a hero is being brave enough to reimagine the world. Let’s reimagine work, let’s reimagine customer journeys, let’s reimagine collaboration, let’s reimagine resilience. Let’s reimagine it better.

Kia Kaha

This blog is part of the #ReimagineWork series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences and to download our datasheets, click the banner.

For more experts' insights, clients' experience and to download our datasheets, click the banner #datareimagine

Posted by: Mark Smith, Head of Consulting and Architecture Services, Intergen | 04 June 2020

Tags: Digital Transformation, COVID-19, #ReimagineWork

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