the new normal

Can you believe that I still hear people sometimes referring to the crisis in the present tense? Yes, they mean the Global Financial Crisis that swept the economies of the developed countries in 2007-08. That crisis.

While it is true that what started with Lehman Brothers in the US in September 2007 did not resonate in other markets until well into 2009, it is also true that in those cases the crisis was considered as over in 2013. And yet, five years later, some people seem not to have realized it.

Why? Probably because despite the huge ruction it caused to financial and economic systems around the world, governments, businesses and investors continue to act as though nothing has changed. Which is just too bad, for all those players should have jumped at the chance of turning a crisis into an opportunity, given that growth and fundamental levels of change only tend to occur when we are out of our comfort zone.

But putting the blame on others (governments, corporations, institutions) is always the easy way out -one that doesn’t imply accepting our fair share of responsibility for the common good. In this case, that means that all of us (individually and/or collectively) could have taken that opportunity to change things around us. As Mahatma Gandhi said, we all have a chance to

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

But it seems that most of us chose not to. Most of us looked the other way, either ignoring the situation or expecting someone else to fix it or just waiting for the whole thing to go away and just go back to normal (whatever that may be). Or did we?

I wonder because even if that is the way things do look like, when you stop to think about it you find that things are no longer the same: We are not back to normal, and if we are, this is a new normal. This new normal is defined by things such as:

  • a job market that veers towards freelancing, where workers are in total control of their business, thus becoming entrepreneurs, even if it is at the expense of the certainty of a paycheck at the end of the month
  • the unstoppable growth of e-tailers and e-commerce, which allows customers to overcome geographical barriers and to purchase products anytime and from anywhere, even if it is at the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers
  • a new way to use data effectively to provide services to people when and where they want them, which has been the foundation for the building of the so-called sharing economy, even if it is at the expense of the workers (or partners, as many prefer to call them) employed by these companies
  • the change in consumer habits, where we seem to favor spending our money on experiences (including the experience of using a new smartphone or tablet), even if it is at the expense of more durable goods (such as furniture or even cars)

As in any changing situation, we have (at least) two choices: Gazing into the unfolding potential of change or focusing on the loss of the familiar. Your answer will reveal your relationship between loss and opportunity. Ultimately the question is whether we choose to freeze in the panic of the unfamiliar or we seek to opportunize the new territory that’s unfolding for us.

Unfortunately, though, I am afraid that the second choice is no choice at all. There is no going back because there is nothing to go back to: What is gone is gone, so all we have left is this new normal. You better get used to it -or, even better, you better make the best of it. I plan to.

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