The amusing thing about our collective drive towards the so-called ‘new normality’ is that the times before the Covid-19 crisis never felt like normalcy of any degree. On the contrary, the corporate mantra was that things were changing fast.
The normality we now yearn for was a reality made of micro and macro-changes unfolding at a dizzying pace in a thousand different directions. Markets before the pandemic were in complete flux as customer preferences and expectations were being fundamentally altered by new technologies and social values, which in turn continuously reshaped habits, necessities, aspirations, and economies.
Most sectors, from agriculture to financial services to energy generation, have been in a perennial state of transformation for decades. Air travel, for example, has been negotiating a persistent set of challenges including oscillating oil prices, scarce runway space, as well as flygskam. Retail, too, was facing its own complications with an onrush towards omnichannel buying experiences while battling advertising fatigue and direct-from-producer consumption.
No sphere of trade could confidently say that things were stable, no matter how promising the outlook. Even businesses on a hot streak like esports brands – poised to become a billion dollar mainstream industry – were not immune to the inconsistency of the market, particularly in areas that lack standardisation.
It is true that the disruptive force of the coronavirus came from a blind spot, crashing into whole economies before anyone even time to blink. However, in many instances, the emergency has merely accelerated developments that have long been anticipated. The possibilities for virtual office spaces, online education, grocery deliveries or car-free areas were there all along and their adoption was only a matter of when, not if.
In a sense, the pre-outbreak period was no less uncertain than the days we are living right now, but it is entirely reasonable to long for the uncertainty we are familiar with and fear the one we do not know. Nevertheless, if we were to return to the way things were a couple of months ago, we would also have to face the road things were headed into.
Every age comes with its own unknowns that generate new opportunities. If there is one constant from the days before Covid-19, it is that the companies that will thrive in the heralded new normality are those that are able to tap into new uncertainty.