And here we are. It’s 2021, and the longest year in living memory is finally behind us. Time to celebrate and get back to normal, right?
Except that there really is no getting back to normal, is there? Both personally and professionally, you’ve experienced too many changes for too long to just hit ‘reset’ and put everything back the way it was last February.
Besides, business is supposed to evolve. Any business that looks exactly the same today as it did 20 years ago is just waiting to be driven out of existence by hungrier and more innovative competitors. Now under normal circumstances, that evolution happens slowly as the result of intentional changes – a restaurant experiments with a weekly trivia night, a real estate firm decides to establish an office in another country, etc.
In 2020, though, that evolution happened faster than anyone expected as the result of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, which meant all of us were throwing a million ideas up against the wall in a desperate attempt to see what would stick. In many cases the ideas came so fast that we didn’t really have time to think about them. The prevailing wisdom (which was good wisdom, I think), was essentially, “Just do something and we’ll figure out later if it was a good idea or not.”
Well later has finally come. We are all in the middle of what looks to be a very long winter – but there is a light at the end of it. We know that light is coming, and we should all try to be prepared for it. Which means now is the time to decide which of the things we’ve been doing for the past 10 months are worth keeping.
Ordinarily January is a time for looking forward and making big, bold plans. But this year we might all be better served by looking backwards. What did we gain by working remotely, and what did we lose? Which of the things we tried in 2020 ended up being failures, and which ones look to be becoming our new best practices? How can we keep the new business we managed to capture this year? Is there anything we can do to ensure that at least some of our business will be able to continue uninterrupted in the event of another catastrophe?
We all agree that 2020 was a year in which everything changed. But how those changes ultimately affect us has not yet been determined. The short term has, sure, but we’re all playing a longer game than that.
I started off by saying that we’ve all just come through the longest year in living memory. But there’s another way to look at it too. We have all just come through the most innovative year in living memory. It is unlikely that we’ll come up with more ideas in 2021 than we did in 2020, simply because there will not be the same crushing pressure to do so as there was last year. And yes, it was forced on us, and no it wasn’t fun even if things have ultimately worked out fairly well. But we did it, and now it’s time to make the best of all that unplanned effort.