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Business as normal has been thrown up in the air and there is a lot ...

Are we courageous enough to really change

Business as normal has been thrown up in the air and there is a lot of discussion about the new world order.  Some changes will be forced and irrevocable.  But the truth is for many people amnesia could easily kick in as we reset to default.   A pivotal opportunity in history has been presented to us. The question is, will we be courageous enough to embrace this opportunity for immense change or watch it slowly drift by.

Here are 5 changes that will take courage, but I think we need to do them. Some will be more consensual than others. They are not prioritized but designed to stimulate conversation, thinking, and change.

1.    Value the unsung hero’s

This period has shone a light on unsung, undervalued, and underpaid heroes. We now rightly celebrate them. Suddenly the vocabulary about staff in the care sector has shifted from unskilled to lifesavers. One of my colleagues is the Managing Director of a national home care agency. The struggles that she and her staff grapple with daily are unimaginable. And they struggle because society hasn’t placed sufficient value on them.   We’ve known this for years and yet have been content to mutter support but do nothing about it.  And let’s not forget the cleaners, refuge collectors, transport workers, all of you, who stepped up, when we were on our knees.  But when all is said and done will our heroes be truly validated, or become yesterday’s news?  The danger with heroism is that there is a spike in adoration and honor but this can quickly drift away.

We must be courageous to ensure that heroism doesn’t mask the inefficiency and inadequacies of what we have witnessed. We must address systemic issues, which include redefining how our heroes are renumerated. I highlight our healthcare and social care staff, but not exclusively. Our heroes cannot return to a situation where they struggle to live. Anything less should shame us as a society.

2.    Educate differently

Our educational system is still based on an agrarian calendar and industrial revolution principles of creating a compliant workforce.  We constantly tinker with the system, but the fundamentals have stayed the same.  We operate a timetable that is misaligned with the rest of society and creates unnecessary pressure on parents and carers.

As a business owner, I still am perplexed at the disconnect between what we need and what schools give us. In schools, we reward getting things right and penalize errors. And this seeps into our workplaces, with colleagues fearful of making mistakes. Yet mistakes are key to creativity and innovation. Some of the most profound inventions and shifts in society have come from getting things wrong.  We still emphasize the individual, but businesses need teams.  These are basics, but woefully overlooked and undervalued.  We need to develop people who understand both planning and preparedness.  The pandemic is an example of this.  We live in hugely exciting times, full of possibilities. Let us align how we educate children and adults.

There are many brilliant examples in Europe and other parts of the world that have developed more relevant and progressive forms of education. So here’s the question we need to be courageous enough to explore and respond to. “If our education system was brilliant and developed great young people able and confident to shape a brilliant world, what would our education system look like?”

3.    Redefining work

Whenever I can, I sit with Professor Jules Goddard, from the London Business School, because he disrupts my thinking. A few years ago he said, “one-day history will look back and view contracts of employment as a form of slavery!”.  It stayed with me, but I didn’t get it until now.

Many of us have been enslaved into patterns of work that aren’t productive and take too much of us. Why do we have to work 7 – 12 hours a day? This rule was set along time ago. For some, it may still be appropriate, but for many of us, it’s simply not. I’m guilty of working endless hours and feeling bad if I’m not working. But lockdown has allowed me to reflect and have a sense of what life could be like. I’ve decided that I’m not doing 12-15 hours a day anymore.  I’m going to work the hours required, not prescribed.  My first target is 6 hours a day.

Before lockdown at AKD, we on the verge of seeking larger office space to accommodate our growth. However, now we are rethinking everything. All of the team are experimenting with new work patterns. We are asking basic but important questions, “what do you need to do, how long will it take, when do you need to do and where can you do it from?” We don’t know what the final configuration will be, but we are excited about the possibilities.

So use this opportunity to step back and have some powerful conversations with colleagues about how you can create better working behaviors and spaces. Don’t just default to home working as the solution. This may be part of it, but there’s so much more than you can potentially explore.

4.    We can no longer turn a blind eye to inequality or injustice.

We know about them but we ignore them, they always tend to be someone else’s problem. That’s until it comes knocking on your door. Many of us were complacent about Covid19. It was China’s problem, then Italy…then it hit us in the face, impacting thousands of people. No longer could we ignore it, we then become engaged, had a point of view, and had a voice. But it had to become personal before we became engaged. We now have an opportunity to be more intentional about those things which are around us.

In a previous article I wrote (Learning and Development and Your Emerging Future), I explained a concept called Organisational Consciousness.  Organizational consciousness is the place in which an organization’s intention and impact extends beyond its organizational needs. So although your organization may be a corporate organization that is designed to generate profit, it cares about other issues. Here’s an example:

The likelihood is that in your business, you have victims of domestic violence who go home at night fearful of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Another difficult reality is that you have perpetrators of abuse that work for you. Some sit on the boards of your organization, others are highly talented and highly paid people. Sometimes we have a hunch, but let it go because “it’s not my business”.  The boundaries between work and home are fast disappearing, so what happens behind closed doors does matter. We need to be brave to say we will support victims and confront perpetrators.

We must acknowledge that customers and staff expect more of organizations and we must be courageous enough to respond, both individually and corporately. It’s not every social injustice we can tackle corporately, but if we are courageous and intentional, we can help contribute to making the world a better place.

5.    Let’s measure what’s important

Increasingly pre Covid19 we were witnessing episodes of anger, hate, and division. The anonymity of social media allowed people to puke vile thoughts. Brexit entrenched leavers and remainers, splitting family and friends and increasingly our newsfeeds are filled with acts of abuse, terror, and evil. Covid19 has created a wave of optimism, charity, and love. We cannot afford to lose this.

One of the things that intrigued me when I visited Dubai was that there is a government Ministry of Happiness. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum believes that a happy society is more healthy, cohesive, and productive.  He has therefore created an infrastructure to build this into the fabric of government and society.  Admittedly Dubai is not without fault, but my interest is in the intention.  On the 2019 World Happiness Index, the happiest countries are Finland, Denmark, and Norway.  And they have been consistently at the top of the league since the index has been reported in 2012. Britain currently, ranks 15th ahead of the US in 19th place.

Measuring our economic productivity is important, but just imagine if we measured happiness. Not just at a societal level, but in our communities and businesses. Although many organizations have employee surveys, few measure happiness. Many perceive happiness as a wishy-washy concept. But actually, it’s fundamental to who we are, how we conduct ourselves, and how we engage with others. Happy people are likely to be healthier, more engaged, and productive. So have the courage to rethink what you measure and create a happiness index for your organization.

Concluding comments

This may feel like an eclectic concoction of thoughts. But if you look more deeply, you will see that they are interrelated and will help to create the necessary change to optimize the possibilities of our futures.

If we do even a few of these, then the disruption, the heartache, and the sacrifice that millions have had to make will be worth it. Don’t wait for others, be courageous as an individual, and step out in faith.

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