2020: A year to forget or a year to remember?

It’s been said many times and we’ll say it again – it’s been a tough year.

Most of us have never experienced anything like it in our lifetime. And we hope that we won’t need to again.

But from even the most difficult times come insights, learning, hope, and gratitude for the kindness of other people.

And as we are coming to the end of 2020, things are thankfully also starting to look up with several vaccines on the horizon, which gives hope to a new beginning in 2021, with hope for stabilisation – physically, emotionally and financially.

So how should we look at 2020, now and when in the future we look back at it? Is it a year that we should just forget and put behind us?

Well, we would argue not. Here are some of our thoughts and observations.

We’re all in this together

The pandemic has shown us how vulnerable we are to new viruses, how quickly they can spread and how difficult it’s been to isolate (at least to start with) the virus and limit its spread. The world we live in is truly globalized, we are so interconnected across cities, regions, countries and continents. In a time when nationalization has gained support in places around the world, we are reminded that we need each other more than maybe ever before – we can’t ‘afford’ to stand alone.

We need more collaboration, not less

This vulnerability shows how dependent we are on each other, it’s not possible for one country to ‘succeed’ at this, while ‘leaving others behind’.

The only way to solve global issues is together, with generosity in heart and mind. And the various vaccine development initiatives that are going on around the world is a great example of this. The fact that there are already 3 vaccines that are on the way, when we didn’t even know about this virus a year ago, is pretty miraculous. Although, it’s of course not a miracle at all, it’s a shining example of what can be achieved when we really want to. The speed and efficiency of the development of vaccines have been made possible by limitless resources; the money, the people, the support and more. All barriers to progress have been removed, and the people involved have been able to move at a speed never seen before. Imagine what else we could do as a world if we really wanted to! Imagine what we can achieve together with focused intention.

Dealing with greater complexity

The complexity of assessing impact of actions has taken center stage. There are so many factors to take into consideration when governments, organisations, schools and others need to decide a course of action. Do we close down to reduce spread and save lives? Do we keep open to secure jobs and livelihoods? It’s not been that straightforward. Leaders have been challenged to grapple with dilemmas they haven’t encountered previously and old models of assessment have not been enough. People will typically argue an action from their expertise and experience, but very few, if anyone, can assess the complete picture and gauge the short- and long-term impact of decisions. We have long argued that complexity management needs to be taught more, to leaders in all roles, all around the world, and this year has painfully highlighted that need. No one has ever led through this before so no one has all the answers, we need to find the answers and explore the path forward together.

Creativity is flourishing

New challenges need new solutions, and so much new thinking and innovation has taken place through the year.

Look for example at what organisations have done to reinvent their products or services, rethought

how work can be done (e.g. work from home) and how to communicate with impact when not face to face, and much more. It’s forced us all to break free from old ways of thinking and doing, and intentionally come up with new innovative strategies and tactics for business and beyond. A crisis often rallies people to come together in innovation. The question to ask ourselves now is – how do we maintain that innovative edge when things are back to some kind of (new) normal?

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Throughout this pandemic we have needed to communicate even more. Communication has always been important as a leader, keeping people involved and informed is always critical. However, throughout this year leaders have needed to be more intentional with communication. Also, what seems obvious normally is not necessarily so when we are working remotely. So, we need to make the implicit explicit and pay more attention to making the links.

So, as much as we look forward to the end of 2020, we also recognize that it’s probably one of the most important years in recent history and so

our key insights are these:

  • We all need each other
  • A crisis reminds us what really matters – and how important relationships are, both personal and professional
  • It’s OK to say that we’re not OK and that we need support
  • There’s no limit to what we can do if we really set our mind to it, and work together
  • No one is perfect; no one will get it 100% right, especially not when facing rapid change and disruption
  • Strategic thinking and complexity management needs to come high up on the development agenda for leaders
  • We can all reflect and then be more intentional with our leadership; how we connect, communicate and collaborate with others – this is the job now, more than ever. We can and should all step up and make a difference.

What have been your insights and what are your recommendations for making the most of what this 2020 has taught us?

Author: Mandy and Elisabet

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