Working from home over the last months sometimes raised similar feelings – everything around seemed to be an immense photo lab in which yet unseen images were revealed little by little from their big dark room. Amidst the tragic and heartbreak of the pandemic, Carl G. Jung’s words “Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life” were starting to reveal their deep meaning to me.
When we were only a few weeks into the crisis, we could not help but start nervously figuring out how the “new normal” would or might look like, a safer and more peaceful place than the turmoil and unpredictability of the present. The idea of a “new normal” was not new, it has been around for many years, at least since the digital transformation started to be a hot topic for enterprises. In 2007, Peter Hinssen, one of the rare European experts regarded as a worldwide reference, published a book called “The New Normal” in which he talked about life and economy in a society without digital limits. More recently, in a few talks in the first part of 2020, he explores what he coins as “the Never Normal”, acknowledging that we are entering an age of accelerated change, “the part of the 21st century where society and technology are colliding”. In this “never normal” we expect the word “digital” to become the norm, together with another word that we will have to make friends with – “disruption”.
Today, we are increasingly and painfully aware that the “way we have always done things” has stopped working. My generation generally believes that in order to improve outcomes, you have to learn from experience. It sounds like a good idea: assess what worked best, what worked less and next time do more of the former and less of the latter. This mental model brought us more and faster computers, higher buildings, more cars, cheaper plane-tickets and lower mobile phone bills. It also brought us, at an increased speed, more single-use plastic, more fast food, more fast fashion and relocation of work to venues that are at the same time cheaper and less constraining in terms of work regulations.
The impact is huge, despite the overall economic activity being slowed down in the first part of the year, in 2020, the humanity has consumed the resources for the year in 234 days i.e. before August 22, only 24 days later than the previous year when the “Earth Overshoot Day” fell on 29 July. It may seem counterintuitive that we have still consumed resources at a worrying pace and we need still 1.6 planets to cover humanity’s demand for resources for the whole year. This is a good indication that “true sustainability can only be achieved by design and not by disaster”, as it is written on the cover of the dedicated website (https://www.overshootday.org/).
The pandemic has shown us once more how interconnected we are across the world, but also how much we depend on the internet for our basic needs. It has demonstrated how essential it is to achieve the digital transformation, which has a number of prerequisites that might not be directly related to technology, but rather to the human factor and to the strategy, to fostering an adequate and inclusive culture and building new dimensions of the digital experience.
A recent study on the digital transformation after COVID-19 (Deloitte, 2020) notes that the crisis brought “a rapid acceleration to digital transformation plans and organisations are showing an incredible adaptability”.