Stepping Back Out in the New Normal
NOW is Your Moment, Impact Entrepreneurs!
For well over a year now, if you were to ask a group of socially distanced, masked people if they wished we could just get back to normal, the answer would likely be a unanimous, resounding “Yes!” After all we’ve been through, the simple thought of normal has a pretty sweet sound to it, would you agree?
But wait, what if we were to seize this moment to take an honest look at what we have come to accept as “normal?” Is normal REALLY all we aspire to… just pick up where we left off? Here is the quote that got my social impact movement wheels turning…
“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider… which parts of normal are worth rushing back to?”
I believe that Mr. Hollis is on to something!
Was the pandemic the shake-up that would prompt us to look through a different lens, consider a fresh perspective about what we are willing to accept, what is truly important, what is worth fighting for, what is broken and worth fixing.
Not only that, but what did it teach us about our resilience, our ability to innovate and adapt, our survival instincts, our deep-seated beliefs – both shared and starkly divided? Who got left behind and who got ahead? Who will emerge the champions and who will be revealed as the opportunists?
Shake-up is probably much too mild a word. Fact is, the tiniest of the tiny microorganisms on earth brought an entire planet to its knees. Turned the world upside-down. Left not a single human life untouched.
Even as we gradually emerge from the full-blown horror, we find ourselves in a unique moment of opportunity to shape the direction of the new normal.
This moment is, in many respects, a prime time to break through old ways of doing things and re-invent approaches to social, economic, environmental, health, and so many other problems. Why not use this time of transition and re-equilibration to try out things that have never been tried before – opportunities for new impact movements, business solutions, products and services?
In fact, there is a term for this state of “flux,” and it gives us context for how we can strategize about tackling the challenges: VUCA.
VUCA is an acronym, first developed in the late 1980’s for the US Army War College to describe different types of battle zone conditions. In recent years, this theory of environmental analysis has been adopted by leadership experts far beyond the military, and applied in business, in social movements, and entrepreneurship. It stands for:
Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.
The post-covid world is all of these things. And yet, it’s not all about the pandemic; we’ve experienced plenty of “battle zone conditions” before, during, and since. Consider just these few examples to put faces on the names:
- volatility – January 6, 2021, a day that a vital centerpiece of the democratic process was suddenly interrupted and imperiled by an armed insurrection that stormed the Capitol;
- uncertainty – what will be the long-term mental health consequences of the stresses, losses, and fears that we all have been dealing with for the last 15 months of the pandemic;
- complexity – how do we engage the global community in adopting the measures needed to halt the devastating effects of climate change before they become insurmountable; and irreversible;
ambiguity – how do we overcome the conflicting and confusing mindsets about whether to get vaccinated against COVID in significant pockets of the country?
And these are just a tiny subset of all the social issues that this past year has shined a stark light on… racial injustice, need for police reform, the expanding wealth gap, skyrocketing housing prices, food scarcity, mass shootings and gun violence of all kinds, extreme disparities in health outcomes, how to achieve immigration policies that are equitable and humane, gender inequality, educational barriers, political strife, voter suppression, conspiracy theories, domestic terrorism, democracy in peril – all of these issues – they were here before 2020 and they’re still here in 2021 – many worse than before.
Social impact entrepreneurs, this is an unprecedented moment to ask – what can we do better, how can we break through what was accepted as normal, inevitable, out of our control, someone else’s problem to fix, or a complacent “that’s just the way things are” mentality, and who better than us to lead the way?
You may be asking, don’t these VUCA qualities make it harder to effect change?No! Leave that attitude for the doubters and the nay-sayers, those who will push back – and they will – all the more reason to re-affirm that you are on to something important! Choose, instead, to see 2021 as a rallying cry for disrupting the status quo!
Take volatility – while stability is good, like the cabin in the mountains where you’ve vacationed every year for the past ten years and plan to for the next ten, it’s hardly the prime condition out of which creative energies get unleashed or innovation happens. Use the chaos as a springboard for emerging with a clear vision that slices through. Lean into the fray!
Then there’s uncertainty – you won’t know what is possible until you try! Do your due diligence, but don’t wait for every eventuality to be figured out – get your message out and start being part of the solution. I once read… “when nothing is certain, everything is possible.” Go with that!
Complexity is only daunting if you equate being a circuit breaker with wrapping your head around a whole issue all at once. Small bites, baby steps, could be just the spark that lights the fire under the diabolical monster – be the spark!
What about ambiguity? Embrace the many facets of any issue, try on many “glasses” until the fuzziness fades – nothing is going to be pure black and white, it’s in the gray area where the novel solution emerges. Visualizing that elusive form through the fog is what distinguishes you as a change-maker!
All this circles back to getting your message clear and articulating it in terms that will inspire others to jump on board. A pitch-perfect, unique value proposition, an enticing movement magnet, an action-prompting landing page, authentic and personable email correspondence – these are all ingredients of the secret sauce by which powerful movements are created and launched!
COVID-19 was a humbling, scary experience. We all spent time in a degree of isolation, feeling more than a little vulnerable, doing some soul searching, while in our bubbles. While I hesitate to use the term “silver lining” in the same sentence as the word pandemic, can we agree that we’ve all been given something of a second chance? Vaccinated, we finally can breathe a sigh of relief. Ironically, we’ve learned to experience connectedness in new ways, through Zoom meetings and from behind masks – even while physically distanced we felt, quite viscerally, how the actions of one affect the experience of the many, we’ve all discovered something new about ourselves, and feel gratitude for having emerged on the other side. So, let’s pay it forward.
Social impact entrepreneurs, make this the moment you inspire us to fly higher!