We Are Never Going Back – Moving Past Denial in 2020

We are now in the autumn of 2020 and the reality of a changed future is settling in.

We are never going back.

We don’t yet know what the future holds and many of us have hit a wall, feeling like we are running out of steam against a pandemic that seems never ending. And, of course, it is not just the pandemic. It is the many impacts on work, life, relationships, travel that are not yet sorted out even as we are beginning to recognize we are not going back to the way things used to be.

Add to this social and political unrest as we’ve written about in previous posts on failed social contracts, defunding the police and what inclusion really means, it is no wonder we still feel disoriented and often feel like we’ve surpassed our limits to function. Our individual and collective worldviews have been stretched, expanded, contracted – oftentimes one experience tumbling right after the other. It is a fluid state of experiencing.

There is Good News

The good news is we are in typical and predictable patterns and impacts of dealing with change, especially change that is beyond our control. Knowing this means there are ways we can host ourselves and others through each stage of change – or each phase of the change curve.

We have been working with this change curve in our Leading Change Consulting Work for more than 2 decades now.

The first time I saw the change curve I had recently lost my job as Executive Director of a regional health charity and my first marriage had fallen apart. I was in limbo. When I looked at the change curve, I thought to myself that I was at the hang-in point at the bottom of the curve, personally and professionally. About a year later, as I looked at the graphic again, I laughed out loud. I realized I hadn’t been at the hang-in point at all, I’d been firmly in denial. Of course, the thing about being in denial is it’s hard to see that that’s where you are.

When the measures around coronavirus were being introduced in March, how many of us imagined we would just have to sit tight for 8 weeks before life and work would resume as before? Then, as time went by, we adjusted our calculations – maybe 10 weeks, maybe 12 weeks, surely by the summer…. full on denial; although sometimes it was the chaos of Stage 2 in the change curve with the corresponding anger, frustration and confusion that was predominant. Participating (or not) in physical distancing, wearing masks, cautiously being out and about at the grocery store or even venturing out to a restaurant. All the while waiting for things to “get back to normal”.

Our Work Requires a Worldview Shift

As consultants whose work has primarily been in person, Jerry and I paused in March to think strategically about how to respond and how our business needed to pivot for longer term success. However, it was in a recent conversation that we finally said it out loud.

“We are never going back.”

Even though we have been in strategic conversations for months, and we have been thinking about what societal and business patterns might be short term and which ones might be “sticky” or long term, this was a stark acknowledgement.

“We are never going back.”

This acknowledgement means we can move beyond denial and chaos into a future in which we are conscious, active participants. We notice that it requires a worldview shift in how we regard our business model, our primary sources of business, and revenue development. This acknowledgement is a visceral knowing, individually and together.

Worldview Intelligence Online Programs

We have been fortunate that, in a collaborative partnership with Sanford Health, we have already been developing a series of sophisticated online learning programs based on our book, Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change. We are currently piloting Level 1 inside of Sanford and with a global group. All along we have been viewing this as a significant and exciting expansion of our business.

As we move into this unknown future, we need to be asking ourselves new questions. What does the core of our business need to be? How do we need to view ourselves and our business growth? Primarily in person, as we have always been? Primarily online, which then asks us what expertise do we need to be developing in our business? A hybrid and, if so, what exactly does that mean?

Re-Imaging the Future

As we reimagine our future in a world that is never going back to the way it used to be, we are also developing a handbook to help our clients and other businesses to think strategically about worldview impacts and worldview shifts that will enable them to strategically pivot, reinvent some or all of their business to meet the challenges of this new world.

Acknowledging we are never going back brings with it a sense of hope and excitement even as we know this will not happen overnight. It will take some time to build on what has already been in creation. But venturing down this path to a different vision and version of our business, now that we are moving past denial and frustration, brings deeper levels of commitment, a heightened sense of urgency and a readiness to meet the future with what it is bringing to us.