As a British Gen X-er, I am blessed not to have experienced a war (pretty high up on my list of counted blessings), nevertheless 2020 will go down as one of the more challenging years in my lifetime. It’s also one in which I have done some of my best living and learning.
Inspired by LinkedIn’s #BigIdeas2021, here are my big ideas for the 12-months ahead.
The year of agile acceleration
We see exponential growth everywhere. It’s in the R-number [bad] but it’s also in technological advancement [good]. If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that change is the only constant. The next big thing to get your head around in 2021 is that change is accelerating.
As a result, there will be a continuing divergence between technology change [exponential] and our capacity to change as humans [linear, just ask Charles Darwin], which means we need to fundamentally change our relationship with technology, if we are to create businesses which thrive[Pic: a revision of Martec’s law, by Scott Brinker of chiefmartec.com]
That’s an amazing opportunity for technology to deal with all the stuff which doesn’t need to be done by us [artificial intelligence], so we can focus on being better humans [emotional intelligence]. We humans are needed more than ever on this planet, and there are so many aspects of thriving businesses which rely on that emotional intelligence and human connection: for example changing, growing, leading.
- When #backtobetter needs #bebold
- Lessons in agile acceleration from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
- Get to doing as quickly as possible
- 5 ways to prototype by remote
Storytelling comes into its own
I pivoted this year from 23 years in blue chip media businesses to independent consultancy, because I realised that all the principles and paradigms of change which radically transformed the media sector are eminently applicable in all sorts of adjacent sectors.
One of the most important tools in the change leadership box is storytelling. You can have all the technology in the world but if you can’t bring people along with you, your business will not transform.
It’s no irony that the secret to transforming ITV News into an always-on digital service was hours and hours of telling the story, and articulating the narrative, to the ITV board, to journalists in 13 different newsrooms, as well as to their huge audiences.
It’s in every business’s gift nowadays to take control of its own story-telling, both internally and externally, formally and informally, to big groups and one-on-one. With workforces ever more distributed, we need to get imaginative with how we communicate.
I had never heard of Zoom before 2020, now it’s a practically a daily staple, alongside Teams, Bluejeans, GotoWebinar, Meet, and even mmhmm.
The leader of 2021 needs to have a wide range of story-telling tools in her toolkit, and not being able to bring them to bear expertly is fast becoming as anachronistic as dictating a letter to a secretary.
Video: level up your webinars!
The key to successful hybrid working – values
The businesses which have most successfully risen to the challenge of 2020 are not just agile and digitally accelerated, they have stayed true to their values.
Technology can facilitate pretty much any way of working – unfortunately it took a cataclysmic event like a global pandemic to show it was possible, which is why we saw more digital acceleration in 9 months than we did in the 5 years before that.
Hybrid working [a blend of remote and office-based] is here to stay. I understand Google have told their staff not to expect a full return to the office until mid 2022.
In 2020, more & more organisations will be adapting to a hybrid world, and that requires a recalibrated leadership; hyper adaptive, hyper connected and hyper visible [but not hyper active, mind].
I developed this 3Ts model (pic left) to help organisations understand how they need to adapt their communications in a hybrid world.
‘Workspace’ now transcends the four walls of the office, and now extends to our sitting rooms, kitchen tables and garden offices.
I hope 2021 will see Property Teams working more closely with colleagues in Technology, and People & Culture to use strong company values to build the future of workspace.
Taking action on Diversity & Inclusion
The pandemic played a role in accelerating the discussion over diversity and inclusion in 2020, magnifying racial inequalities through increased death rates among COVID patients of BAME origin, and giving new urgency to the Black Lives Matter protests.
2021 is the year in which the rhetoric needs to turn into wider action – living and breathing diversity and inclusion every day.
This opinion piece from Democrat strategist Paul Begala analysing Joe Biden’s cabinet picks makes the crucial points that diversity is not about representation for representation’s sake (that’s tokenism, and there’s nothing more insulting than that), it’s about drawing from the widest possible pool of talent and broadest range of lived experiences and ways of thinking.
The pandemic, along with lockdowns, has pushed us to focus more on people around us, and realise that by looking after everyone, we make life better for ourselves. Let that be a positive legacy of 2020.
La Piazza Group, the Italian influencer marketing agency I co-founded along with Fru Hazlitt & Alessandra Cravetto, launched Colory* this year with the mission to elevate and inspire Italians of colour and promote a pool of talent, ideas and creativity which Italy has until now largely ignored.
We also brought GRLS.it into our fold – a platform for female entrepreneurs.
This year I, along with some of my fellow Positive Momentum partners, became mentors with https://www.generation-success.com/
Give mental health the same attention as physical health
2020 was the year I recovered from burn-out. That’s the first time I have ever written that down.
Which illustrates my point beautifully. I had no such qualms telling people I had broken my wrist snowboarding, or even telling them I had shattered my elbow snowboarding again a year later. [I have now given up snowboarding.]
The conversation around mental health has proliferated, but there’s still a way to go before we take mental health as seriously as our physical health.
I’m talking about it now because I’m seeing friends around me going through similar experiences as mine. It’s easy to believe that you’re the only person having a tough time because so few people will admit their vulnerabilities. One of the most significant breakthrough moments for me was realising that it’s OK not to be OK. We are social animals, we need each other, and when we’re able to give of ourselves, everyone benefits.
I am so grateful to my wife, my close friends (you know who you are) and to Ben McKie at Psyched and Gwendolyn Parkin at Integral Careers for helping me on my personal journey through 2020. When you build back, you build back stronger. [Applies to souls as well as wrists & elbows I think]
- Be comfortable with who you are. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
- Everyone has amazing strengths and talents, build your formula to thrive out of them.
- The world of work can take many forms.
- Talk to your friends. Look after each other.
- Get outside.