Chapter 11The New Normal

As we wrote this book, the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the world with an almost incomprehensible effect on hundreds of millions if not billions of lives. For the first time in at least the last fifty years, we faced a crisis that reached all parts of the globe and directly impacted people in every country.

In most cases, this situation was viewed as episodic, something that needed to be weathered before returning to the pre-crisis levels of change, uncertainty, and disruption. This belief was highlighted to us in an inquiry posed by the leader of the U.S. operations of a European company. “I have a question,” she asked. “COVID has actually helped force us to find some new practices that are better than those we employed before the pandemic. I don't want to lose those new practices when COVID-19 is over. So what can we do?”

Implicit in her question is the idea that we can usefully think of this time in three phases: before COVID-19, during the pandemic, and post-COVID-19, when things could settle back into a somewhat better “new normal.” While this is a valid viewpoint, particularly in regard to preserving the positive changes that COVID-19 has thrust upon us, there is a more important lesson to be taken from the crisis.

Lessons from the Crisis

The lesson from the current pandemic, and the high levels of uncertainty we are all feeling as individuals and organizations, is that increased rapid and complex change is becoming the new normal ...

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