Deckchair Philosopher ponders the value of resilience versus gain… there more to a crisis than this?

Deskchair Philosopher

The Deckchair Philosopher is shaking off victimhood and blind compliance to ask, “How can we gain new insights from reflecting on the forty days and nights in the iso-woho wilderness?  Let’s take a virtual visit across the bridge to the ‘new normal’.

Too many people appear to be catastrophising and the nanny state is back in full force telling us how to run every detail of our existence.  We are told that we need to be resilient in this time of crisis.  But “Keep calm and carry on” seems a bit lame whilst frustratingly staring across the bridge toward the ‘new normal’. Instead, let’s channel the wartime leader Winston who famously said, “Never waste a good crisis”.

History teaches us that even if you are in the midst of what looks like an unending battle, in time things will get better. Yet many of us are finding it hard to imagine any positive future scenarios as we are bombarded with media streaming depressing pandemic statistics.

Don’t look at other peoples’ opportunities or become envious of those who are doing better than you right now. Look at your weaknesses and the threats and use ‘contrarian thinking’ to reframe the threats as opportunities for you and your business.

Whilst bike shops, toilet paper wholesalers, face mask manufacturers and food takeaways were winners in the battle of beating the virus, who will be come the heroes and winners on the emergence not the new normal?

Remember…think contrarian.  This thinking style encourages you to walk around the problems, looking at them from every angle to glimpse a contrary solution that just might be a winning opportunity that will fix the threat, not just for you but for an entire industry or community. Let’s walk through some examples to see how this works:

Many managers thought the biggest threat from pandemic driven woho was going to be losing control as workers would take advantage of being out of sight and unsupervised. For many businesses, woho has actually made workers more productive not less. Not only are we investing the time we would spend commuting time into work projects, some are also doing the jobs of three or more people: your own work job; the work of your child’s childcare worker; the work of your children’s teachers and the work of farmers in your new veggie patch. Many are also probably finding time to read books, even building your own library that you can swap with friends. Whilst the gym may be closed, we are all riding our bikes, walking, exercising and breathing cleaner fresher air than at any time since before the industrial revolution.

It would appear that heaps of tasks are not only possible to do remotely, we actually do them better. The unthinkable has become doable and the doable is done in less time, freeing us to fit in more essential but also novel activities. Lots of research has shown that telecommuting actually makes most workers more productive, more engaged and satisfied which in turn encourages them to work longer hours and achieve more. A virtuous circle of work-life.

Well you say, that’s all very well for knowledge workers but what about the tourist industry, restaurants, entertainment and hospitality sectors? Firstly, let’s accept and empathise but not fixate on the negative impact’s closedown and restriction of service for these workers. To tackle their issues, we could use linear thinking and just project forward from what we know and what is working today. Or we could jump back in time to our memories of how things were before COVID 19 and endless woho. Both of these would anchor us in what we and everyone else already knows and understands, so we are unlikely to come up with anything particularly new or disruptive.

Let’s instead use our imagination and take that virtual walk across the bridge to the new normal. What will these sectors look like there and who could be the winners? What will be the new service delivery models that operate best ‘new-normally’?  What are you seeing, what does this world look like?

The Deckchair philosopher’s VR dream of the new normal world looks a little like this……

There are more bicycles on the streets and more bicycle commuters and deliveries by bike. The high streets are no longer occupied by retail shops but show rooms and demonstration spaces. Whilst we see things to buy, we order most on line and have them delivered electric van, drone, or bike. Personal grooming, hairdressers, beauticians and nail bars are thriving as we all need to look good on the street and on Zoom too. Those old magazines are gone, businesses now serve coffee, tea and health drinks to those waiting. There are artisan shops, selling unique locally made and built products that you cannot get anywhere else. Chain stores are now mostly on-line except for big department stores and shopping centres where the experience of live shopping and browsing and free entertainment offers more than just products for consumption.

Large office buildings are now subdivided. Since the pandemic-social-distancing office of the ‘return’, office layouts have further adapted to more permanent 2-day and 3-day in-office working weeks. Now more businesses can fit in the same space not less. At home, apartment developments have given way to town houses and low rise living where people have in building office sharespace and ready access to gardens and greenery and their home-grown or community grown produce.

More trains now take workers out of cities and into the country side and to sea-side resorts at weekends but also on mid-week days off. Commuter trains are refitted for comfort and a new golden age of railway journeying has arrived. High speed trains remain to connect cities and countries.

And the hospitality workers? Independent restaurants and cafes are still there. Yes, human beings still like to go out of their homes and home offices and gather to socialise, bond and celebrate over meals and refreshments. Outlets that reluctantly went gourmet takeaway during the pandemic continue with this service as well as table dining. Though some are under new management, the strong brands have all survived and rehired many workers.

People still gather “afterwork” in bars and pubs. There was no sign of a drop in alcohol consumption during the pandemic lockdown.  In fact, after the spike in bottle shop sales at the beginning of COVID panic buying, consumption normalised and this continues into the new normal. Wine hoarding? Well actually we have been doing that in cellars like…forever!

In the Deckchair Philosopher’s virtual future, the challenge for the hospitality industry is no different than it has ever been.  Provide a quality, good value product in a great venue, constantly refine your product and service delivery and the customers will keep coming back. Now more are arriving by autonomous uber, electric scooter or bike, and by foot, but they are still coming….because humans are social animals who will need more than ever that social break from their new-normal home-work-woho lives.

Try “Imagineering” at home yourself. It can free you from seeing iso and lockdown just as a series of threats.  By taking the contrarian perspective your current situation could be re-envisioned as a woho ‘green room’ before your next big performance.