What do we even mean by 'normal'. It's an important question as we navigate the oceans of uncertainty that have risen all around us in 2020. It's important because we are starting to bid 2020 goodbye (and good riddance) and ask each other what we think will happen next.
The simple act of asking what comes next reveals the crux of this challenge. We want predictability. We want to be able to repeat experiments in which A causes B. Reliably.
But perhaps our use of digital proxies for familiar ways of doing things are giving us a false sense of normality. We have built ourselves little islands of routine in which a mirage of normality can be maintained and while that aligns with our aversion to uncertainty, it leaves us at risk of convincing ourselves that life is becoming more predictable than the evidence around us would suggest.Normal - in psychological terms - "means ways of being, and doing, things that are familiar. Things that we are used to doing, in the ways we are used to doing them," according to Dr Rowena Hill, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University. She researches the human aspects of emergency management and disaster.
Aleks Krotoski in her BBC Sounds podcast Digital Human (series 20, Normal) coins the rather wonderful term Zoom-bie Apocalypse, echoing the way that ingrained behaviours forced Zombies back to shopping malls in the movies, so we congregate in Zoom calls trying to echo behaviours from our old world - the after work drinks, the dinner table chat. All of it more stilted, juddering and dislocated, digital proxies of actual social moments.
As Aleks points out, we are uncertainty averse. Our use of digital social proxies is a work around for us - offering us the ultimately unsatisfactory comfort of old familiar certainties.
It would be foolish to expect anything other than the unexpected in 2021, no matter what the comfort we may find in Zombie memories of our past lives.
The smart thing is to prepare for still more #contextshocks in which the consequences deliver new contexts in which new needs will emerge. The smart thing is to work to make yourself responsive, to play your part in learning from those new contexts, selecting how to respond to those needs and in doing so creating the future you both intend and can embrace.
#ResponsiveOrganisations (as I have published before) must task themselves with discovering and selecting the new needs they best serve and testing their way to serving them - accepting that IS prediction in our ocean of uncertainty.
2020 has been good for those with the deepest reserves. But living off your fat may not be the best preparation for what comes next.
2021 is likely to favour those best adapted to handling uncertainty, those ready to ditch the proxies and workarounds. Those with least to lose by admitting they don't have certainty - and prepared to test their way forward into what comes next.