So why all this talk about a “new normal”? Is it because the old normal fits us as uncomfortably now as a pair of pre-pandemic jeans?
Run a search on the pandemic and a new normal – it is a phrase that has been on the lips of practically everyone. Because of this, I claim that “New Normal” fatigue is as alive as Zoom fatigue. But here’s the thing, this “new normal” isn’t new. It’s different. And how we think about our current reality requires not a shift in normalization but a shift in how we reframe our thought process.
Reframing the New Normal
Reframing how we work, how goals are achieved, and how organizations and departments function is a critical exercise that needs to be addressed. Right now, for many people it feels like we are in a never-ending cycle, repeating the same actions and experiences. A new normal would suggest that this is the way life and business will continue to function. Having “new normal” fatigue makes us think that life will not give us opportunities to learn deeply or allow us to break free into new opportunities.
As an example, reframing this “new normal” into situations that require “fresh thinking” has Gen Y-ers taking control of business start-ups and reimaging that business success should be measured by more than profit. That’s a “fresh thinking” reframe not just of business success but life success. As time marches on and as different historical events mold our thinking it’s natural that different products, hierarchies, and organizational structures beg for fresh thinking.
It almost goes without saying that businesses that don’t embrace fresh thinking and do what they’ve always done, end up being less competitive with their potential fates being stagnation or death of the company. This as other businesses pass them by with new products, services, and technologies.
The New Normal for L&D
What does this mean for Learning and Development in particular? For an industry that has been known to build upon one stagnant idea (looking at you bedazzled elearning) after another in hopes of new success, fresh thinking for L&D may be a struggle. As a matter of fact, globally, organizations spent $370 billion on L&D efforts in 2019. Yet, only 25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that L&D efforts measurably improved performance.
That figure represents an uncomfortable truth that has nothing to do with a “new normal” and everything to do with changing how we perceive challenges. The hidden variable between those L&D professionals who approach their roles by searching out fresh ideas and those who hope the next “best practice” fits within this supposed “new normal”, is the overall receptiveness and readiness of the person.
Those who are receptive and practice fresh thinking are those who are more open-minded. You know who you are. You have the clarity, desire, and mental space for new thinking to occur. Conversely, you also know if you have tunnel vision, or look at ideas from a negative perspective (the words “yeah, but…” are a common refrain). Your mental space is taken up by often feeling stressed or under daily pressures.
Here’s the catch. It’s often assumed that one either has a readiness for fresh thinking, or they don’t. That somehow this is a personality attribute. It’s not. Being in a receptive state of mind is natural to all of us. The key is to access receptiveness and to realize when you are fighting against it. Our state of mind is variable. You know this when during the day, sometimes ideas flow, and at other times you hit a wall and are mentally blocked. The question becomes, do you address the wall? The difference between letting the wall stay up or breaking it down is how we shift our thinking.
The Danger of the New Normal
The danger with accepting a “new normal” is we put ourselves in line with being in a non-receptive state of mind. Letting events wash over us as if that’s the way it has to be, “accept the new normal, or else”. Keep in mind that normal is variable. Your normal may not be my normal. So, in effect, all normal is a new normal to someone else (meta right?). How L&D looks at industry norms requires fresh thinking. The “normal” we are all experiencing at this moment, is an anomaly.
Basic physics tells us that there is always an equal and opposite reaction to an action. At the beginning of 2020, the “normal” pendulum swung in one direction, now it is swinging in the opposite direction. But as the saying goes, “we never step into the same river twice”. Is this an opportunity to allow our state of mind to march forward with receptiveness to fresh thinking? Either to sustain and grow the positives of the past year or change and reimage the negatives.
Start with Fresh Thinking
How do we get from here to there? Maybe you know you are not in a receptive state of mind, how can you nurture fresh thinking?
- Be in the moment. Take note of your surroundings and emotions. Are you feeling frustrated by certain things? Take a moment to think about why. Did a “yeah, but…” creep into your conversation. Stop and think about why.
- Pay attention to when things are going well. What was the environment like? Who were you surrounded by (either virtually or in-real-life)?
- Reframe questions and circumstances. This helps to create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or challenge
- Learn how to move between fast and slow thinking. Challenge yourself to move beyond auto-pilot decisions.
Recently, Michelle Ockers, Laura Overton, and I wrote a blog series for our Emergent Masterclass sponsors, Go1. This four-part series was based on the concept of “Carpe Diem L&D”. It’s within these posts we ask L&D to look at what we do from different angles. If we applied fresh thinking to L&D would we:
- Focus more on “business first” rather than “Learning first”?
- Build a “culture of curiosity” rather than a “culture of learning”?
- Navigate toward “leveraging community” rather than “siloed thinking”?
If we applied fresh thinking to these L&D norms, would we see different, dare I say, more effective results? Why allow the tide of supposed “best practices” to pull us all into a pool of sameness? Where, in turn, we all become one herd of ineffectualness all in the name of a “new normal”?
There is no denying that the years 2020/21 have taken us to a place of deliberate disruption, and never-ending changes that have pushed us to be more reactive than proactive. However, we do not have to accept the norm be it new, or not. Engage your receptive mind toward fresh thinking. Spend time thinking about the things that could change how you operate within the L&D industry and within your business.
The ability to think differently and provide fresh thoughts to old ideas is a gift we all have, and if we all leveraged our ability a little bit each day, imagine how L&D might Emerge Stronger.
There’s still time to “Carpe Deim L&D” and introduce a fresh perspective to transform L&D to add real business value. Register now to be part of a movement that will have you transforming into the partner your business needs you to be.
- A series of 6 masterclass sessions over 3 weeks with a peer showcase
- Expert-led, deep-dive into 4 lenses identified through the Emergent podcast series (Data, Community, Experimentation and Technology).
- Hands-on practice applying these lenses to a case study alongside progressive peers with the support of the Emergent podcast experts and the Emergent hosts (Laura, Shannon, Michelle)
- Application of the 4 lenses to a challenge/opportunity in your business for fresh insights and a practical plan to take immediate action.
Masterclass not for you? Then head over to download our latest whitepaper!