Living in a snow globe that has been violently shaken

It’s difficult to know what to write today.

It feels like we’re living in a snow globe that has been violently shaken. While things will eventually settle, we are in the midst of being rattled to our core by COVID-19.

So, this is a collection of things I’ve been reflecting on. 

We’re all connected

As a global pandemic, we’re all in it. We can’t look away and pretend it’s someone else’s issue. It became tangibly personal as soon as our supplies of toilet paper came under threat. In fact, we’re lucky if a lack of loo paper is the worst of it.

Longer term I hope this will help galvanise us around our similarities rather than differences. The whole world’s population now knows what it feels like to live under threat, and this will hopefully cultivate greater empathy for those who live under threat every day.

Absence of a bad guy

In war, there is an enemy. The bad guy. Someone to be mad at and serve as the lightning rod for pent up, fear-based emotion. Here there is no one really to blame. No real enemy. You can’t get mad at a virus, only about it.  That’s contributing to a sense of helplessness.

We’re seeing people unleashing their anger at supermarket staff and fellow citizens as a result. It’s unacceptable. Fear might help explain certain reactions, but it doesn’t excuse it.

Trust is tenuous

People panic when they lose trust in two things; the ‘system’ and each other. When a store can’t guarantee supply, for example, people no longer trust the system they’ve relied on. When people don’t know each other, they can’t trust that others will let them have the last toilet roll.

The best path to trust, I believe, is transparency. Tell people what you know. Tell people what you don’t. Do what you say you will do, and if circumstances change, let them know. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and signal you trust them. When people feel you trust them, it’s harder for them to let you down.

Maslow’s hierarchy

How quickly we’ve toppled down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Till now, so many of us have had the good fortunate to bathe in love and belonging, stretching towards esteem and the need for self-actualisation.

But we could only do this is our physiological and safety needs were met, and goodness, how priorities have shifted. As a self-employed person who runs seminars and workshops for a living, I can tell you financial security has become central to my thinking in a way it has rarely been.

This shift will be reflected in the business services people will be looking for. Out with “analysts” and in with “accountants”. Cash flow, payroll and inventory management will be hot topics, marketing and professional development, less of a priority.

Industries will be redefined

There will be winners and losers in this dramatic snow globe shake-up as consumer habits are dislodged and re-formed. After time spent in this new, physically distanced virtual world, there will be question marks over what face-to-face meetings and gatherings have to offer. Why commute to work when I can be more productive from my home office?

Streaming and digital content will thrive (if it can get made), and people will get used to remote interactions. We will get better at learning, working and engaging online because we have no other option.

It will accelerate take-up of digital service delivery (e.g. consulting my lawyer, doctor or accountant online rather than in person), and enhance the perceived value - in other words, willingness to pay, for such exchanges. Where “webinars” were perceived as low grade, now “online learning” will become default.

As we spend more time at home, do-it-yourself (DIY) services (e.g. beauty, home maintenance) will go gangbusters, accompanied by YouTube tutorials on same.

In the short term, underpaid professions like teaching and nursing will be more highly valued. But more highly paid? Probably not.

Those in hospitality, tourism and retail will be gravely impacted, while logistics and supply chain will thrive. Anything that can be delivered to the door will be highly prized.

The snow globe will settle

As mentioned in my last email, I recently recorded a piece on two speed consumer behaviour. My point was, it’s more important to understand human nature than consumer behaviour.

Little did I know that we would be so soon and so dramatically confronted with examples of decision-making under threat. It’s raw, it’s base, it’s human.

We are ordinary people living through an extraordinary time. After the turbulence, the snow globe will eventually settle, and we will have a new normal. It’s up to us what the new normal will be.


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