THE RIGHT TIME — pandemic as an excuse for deeper social changes
The world today may probably be best described using the BANI acronym — Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, and Incomprehensible. That is why, dear designers and strategists, let’s get ready for a bit different new roles. There is a lot of work to be done in the post-pandemic world.
Besides the traumatic aspect of the whole uncertain pandemic situation, I believe that the most challenging work is yet ahead of us. Today, we may feel anger and sadness. We may be grieving our closest ones or their organizations. We see businesses being closed down due to fear of the unknown. Staying at home and without much ability to respond, our anxiety grows. It seems like today we are all watching the same new episode of the Black Mirror series. Sadly, this is not a Netflix sci-fi speculation anymore.
Carefully observing the situation, listening to people, analyzing insights, and forecasting future scenarios — this is what has recently occupied our minds at Change Pilots. Outside of that, we are looking at ourselves and our roles in these new scenarios. Getting ready to adjust ourselves to the most useful roles, to hyper-specialized and prepare for the post-pandemic landscapes. Countries, policymakers, designers, and strategists are going to take responsibility (“ability to respond”) to a deep system and social changes. This will be the time of our lives when we will see a lot of norms, habits, status quo’s needed to be redefined and paradigms shifted. However, do not let yourself be caught off-guard now. Change-makers won’t be the only ones implementing a change. Unfortunately, there is always the other side of the coin and there will be intended and unintended harm-causing activities going around, exploiting the post-crisis situation. In the recent past, we have used the VUCA acronym (designed 30 years ago by the US Army: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) to describe the world that we are in right now. Now, more than before, we see that even more accurate is BANI, an acronym describing our environment as brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible. This became much more accurate after we have seen individuals and organizations responding to current crises and their behaviors matching this term. We have seen much more emotional, behavioral, fragile, human responses. This is why, at our firm we believe that these Human2Human (H2H instead of B2B) responses and relationships we continue to lead the way even deeper in our business partnerships. This is why we would like to support our community and the ecosystem by sharing our soup-for-thought prepared for you by Filip and Justyna, two of our pilots.
Below you may find 4 out of our top post-pandemic insights gathered so far in our ongoing research. It may not be rocket science, may feel quite obvious, but does not mean that it is less important. With that, you should be able to notice the first areas we may already focus on. Example? Such a simple thing as washing your hands. Seems obvious, right? Nevertheless, it echoed in the media all over the world like it was something extraordinary. Such a simple, small thing, but it has already redefined our understanding and the new meaning of hygiene and much beyond.
1. ME-centricity & WE-community
Current days can be compared to the pressure drop on a plane when oxygen masks pop out. The rule is to put the mask on yourself first, then on others who can’t. In order to support others, you need to think about yourself. Minding yourself and others take full care of the ecosystem around you too, that in return you depend on. There are people in your system that won’t be able to respond to the crisis situation and adapt as quickly as you do. If you are lucky to have your oxygen mask on, then it’s time to mind the others.
Therefore, as much as you want to bend the authorities’ restrictions — let’s say go for a run or gathering with friends — you may give it a second thought. Is it my ego, my short-sight, or my awareness of the strength of my community? Maybe I better hold off and postpone it? Maybe I can take care of myself differently so others won’t be harmed? In the end, your system is as strong as its weakest element, and probably you do not want to be that one.
In a design-as-a-process, we are often using principles of empathy to the users and stakeholders in the environment. How empathetic are you towards your surroundings, when it comes to your actions that might impact others? How can you maintain your and others' needs at the same time? Taking care of yourself is actually taking care of the ecosystem that is around you. Your awareness of it will grow by supporting your well-being, and at the same time, silently supporting the community as it’s a strong actor. Remember to start with yourself first. Do not forget about your physical and mental health that might be a game-changer now and during pandemic recovery. We hear you — this isolation fatigue may make you feel BRITTLE (BANI), as well as one of the strongest nods in your system.
2. SELF-RETRO (spective)
Today may be the best time and place to give yourself quality time, attention, and some space. Yes, that’s a tricky one, because this requires self-balance between spoiling yourself with first-hand goodies (short-term tranquilizers) and numbing your inner voice with self-development goals and new work. We would rather suggest you focus on your mindset and attitude and what defines those in our ordinary day-to-day struggle. A right portion of the self retrospective will more likely bring a thoughtful experience with, who knows, maybe some new potential and ready-to-use insights. Maybe it’s a good time to ask yourself the simplest questions such as:
What makes me really present? Am I happy right now, doing what I do?
What makes me uncomfortable or stressed? How may I change this?
What are sadness and anger to me? Do they make me struggle daily or am I using it as a gift?
Am I in the right-happy place in my life? If not, how can I get there?
How may I deal with anxiety? Should I let go of all my troubles and problems?
These are just a couple of questions that we sometimes indirectly try to address during our in-depth interviews whenever we touch upon the universal human values (principles at NVC — Nonviolent communication). Often, we use them ourselves at our team. Even more often right now, because we too, experience our challenges right now. Today is probably one of the best moments to ask those questions. A lot of things internally may overflow or become obsolete in the new conditions, leaving us new, open space to introduce new habits, actions, projects, or/and relationships. We hear you this — this may make you feel ANXIOUS (BANI), but remember, that “the most important relationship in your life is between you and your consciousness (yourself)”.
3. USE & APPRECIATE WHAT ALREADY EXIST
At Change Pilots, we highly value sustainability and circular economy approach to businesses. While working with our clients, we often discuss waste optimization with a zero-waste goal, closing loops (circular design), service flips (i.e. product-as-a-service), or product life cycle extension. Since the current situation locked us down in-house, we kept valuing and using the same principles in our smaller home economies even more intensively than before. We live in abundance, not in scarcity. Recent negative prices of oil and other goods prove that we live in a surplus economy — we have more than we can consume. Now we just see it more clearly.
Today is a good time to explore, appreciate, fix, and take care of what is around us. It relates to products, services, but also relationships and work. You may even discover clutter in these areas, see that ‘less is more’ and decrease the numbers, clean the space, and deepen the connections. Today, you may even dig into the past and discover forgotten passions, old tools, or unused materials. It’s the right time to search around and ask yourself how do I use what I have? Do I need more? Do I need more? After the pandemic, when the dust comes down, you may be able to somehow enrich your life with the things closest to you. Especially when trying to go back to ‘normal’ we will face a lot of new conditions, meanings, and behaviors. We hear you — visions of multiple futures may make you feel NONLINEAR (BANI). It is a good time to evaluate what stays, what goes, and take care of the fewer things, but those that really matter.
4. VULNERABILITY ISN’T WEAKNESS
Our friends, clients, and partners today speak with courage about their emotions and feelings when describing their challenges. It was not like that before, as we tend to see vulnerability as a weakness — something is not really welcomed in the business world. Now, it seems as if we partially lost the need to hide behind the strength masks, as everyone experiences some kind of exposure and vulnerability. Finally, we have space to be a bit more honest about what we face. As the experience proves most of the time, naming our challenges helps to find support and noticing where the real community is — within your organization, your neighborhood, or maybe even within your competitors. We hear you, weakness is not an easy part of us to understand — this may make you feel INCOMPREHENSIBLE (BANI). Surprisingly noticing and admitting to being vulnerable helps to find innovation, transition, or disruption. The need is the mother of invention, they say, but first, it is good, to be honest with what we are vulnerable to and therefore what we really need.
Today, what many of us are experiencing, is a perspective change. So many elements of our daily grind, our ecosystems, can be seen and felt different — no doubt about that. This article is meant to give us all some food for our thoughts, and hopefully actions. What matters is how we will use these circumstances, where we will go, what decisions we will take — it’s all up to us. We are all interconnected within a net of a complex system, and our next steps will impact our futures. Starting with your smaller, inner circles we will bring bigger changes to our teams, organizations, households, and neighbors, hopefully expanding with a positive impact even further. The #staythome period will end soon, so we better use this precious time wisely. In retrospect, outside of struggles, we will surely remember it as something vulnerable, valuable, and paradigm-shifting.
#stayhomestayconnected #stayathome #systemsthinking #baniworld #baniacronym #circularthinking #sustainableliving #circulardesign #zerowaste #changepilots