“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”
— Milton Friedman
Today, we are closer to living in a sci-fi novel than ever before, technology has infiltrated our everyday lives and we’ve grown more dependent on it than ever before. We stand here today on the verge of a new era. We have been put here not by will but by necessity yet the things we learnt and experienced will stick with us forever.
I believe it is pointless to talk about going back, we can’t unlearn what we know or un-experience what we have been through. We have experienced a major historic event — the things we learnt and the behaviours we adapted will stay with us — forever.
Behaviours and practices such as remote working, online communication, socialising through online games and utilising digital services to acquire food and other goods, previously only used by a select few, have become a new norm. The internet has become a necessity for everyone, a natural extension of both people and society.
Yet we still have much to learn — we are just at the cusp of a revolution and we are still struggling with using all these new tools we have adopted in a proper way. It will take time to find a balance between the old and the new — between what things we preferred from before and what things are better now. But one thing is certain — things will never be the same, there is no going back.
The challenge in front of us will be to build a new reality where we integrate our new digital tools into our lifestyle. Today, many of the digital tools we are using are simply seen as surrogates, replacements, for their analogue counterparts. We try to run our meetings the same way we used to — just online, we try to run our educations the same way we used to — just online, our conferences and everything else — the same way we used to — just online.
But each medium, each tool, comes with its own benefits and limitations — this means behaviours will have to adapt and evolve. Different tools are suited to different problems — and for us to maximise effectiveness in the new era we will need to exploit those strengths and mitigate the weaknesses.
Take e-mail as an example. You would not write an e-mail the same way you would write a letter. You use different language, phrasing, length of content, you ask more questions, etc. An e-mail is less sleek visually, you can’t hold it, it does not have a smell — but it does arrive quickly, cost less to send and can hyperlink to other digital media.
Hence a letter and an e-mail are both written communication — yet completely different.
Over the last few months, we have grown comfortable with using new tools but not yet adapted our behaviour to realise their full potential. We are now in a situation where asynchronous communication is more viable, where everyone does not need to be online for an information meeting or lecture and our synchronous time can be used for more efficiently, yet we fail to do so.
The revolution at hand will not be about emerging tech, it will not be about us adding new tools — it will be about a change in attitude and process. About us embracing technology and adapting our behaviours and habits to maximise its utility — it will be about finding an equilibrium between the old and new.
We will slowly uproot the old belief systems that have been holding us back for so long and spawn many new digital opportunities to be capitalised on. The new normal will be enabled not by technology but by peoples change in attitude towards technology. Now is the time to revisit our previously solved problems and evaluate how a change in attitude and behaviour will affect them; now is the time to find new and improved solutions.
Our horizon has now expanded and the playing field is larger than ever.