The past few weeks have presented us all with a variety of challenges, be it workplace and working time organization with home office, video conferencing, home schooling and other childcare. But also, the financial burden on our companies, short-time work and unstable global supply chains. Creative solutions were sought and found, and companies with good crisis management were particularly successful. Now that we are enjoying the first loosening up and a feeling creeps in as if „Corona is over now“, and everything returns to normal. But from our experience there will be no return to the old normality. There are historical moments when the future changes direction. We call them bifurcations. Or deep crises. Those times are now.
The world as we knew it until February 2020 is dissolving. But behind it, a new world is coming together whose shape we can at least begin to imagine. We would like to offer you an exercise which we used at different clients in vision processes in companies. It is called the RE-Gnose. In contrast to PRO-Gnose, this technology does not look „into the future“. Instead, you look BACK from the future into the present. Sounds crazy? Let’s give it a try.
The Re-Gnose: Our world in autumn 2020
Let’s imagine a situation in autumn, say October 2020, sitting in our office and looking out the window. It’s warm, and people are moving in the street again. Do they move differently? Is everything the same as before? Does the coffee taste the same again? Like before Corona? Or even better? What will we wonder about in retrospect?
We will be surprised how quickly cultural techniques of the digital suddenly proved themselves in practice. Tele- and video conferencing, which most colleagues had always resisted (the business plane was better), turned out to be quite practical and productive. Investments in the necessary technology were made quickly and easily in most companies. The home office became a matter of course for many – including the improvising and time juggling that goes with it. And even managers experienced that the work was done despite a lack of personal control, as people took responsibility for themselves, their workplace and their employer.
At the same time, seemingly outdated cultural techniques were experiencing a renaissance. Suddenly, not only did you catch the answering machine when you called, but real people were there. The virus brought about a new culture of long-distance phone calls without second screen. Even the „messages“ themselves suddenly took on a new meaning. One communicated in a real way again. No one was left on the phone anymore. No more stalling. Thus, a new culture of accessibility was created. Of commitment.
Crises are effective above all in that they dissolve old phenomena, make them superfluous…
This has shifted the relationship between technology and culture. Before the crisis, technology seemed to be the panacea, the carrier of all utopias. Today, no one – or only a few hard-boiled people – still believe in pure digital salvation. We are once again turning our attention more to the humane questions: What is man? What are we for each other? And how can man and technology harmonize perfectly? How can technology relieve people?
We will be amazed at how far the economy could shrink without something like „collapse“ actually happening, which was previously conjured up with every tax increase, no matter how small, and every state intervention. Although there was a „black April“, a deep economic slump and a 50 percent stock market slump, although many companies went bankrupt, shrank or mutated into something completely different, it never came to zero. It was as if the economy was a breathing entity that could also doze or sleep and even dream.
Today in autumn, there is a global economy again. But global just-in-time production, with hugely ramified value chains, with millions of individual parts being hauled across the planet, has survived. It is being dismantled and reconfigured. Everywhere in the production and service facilities, interim storage facilities, depots, reserves are growing again. Local productions are booming, networks are being localized, and craftsmanship is experiencing a renaissance. The global system is drifting towards globalization: localization of the global.
A virus as an evolutionary accelerator
Deep crises also point to another basic principle of change: The trend/countertrend synthesis.
The new world with corona is emerging from the disruption of the megatrend connectivity. Politically and economically, this phenomenon is also called „globalization“. However, the disruption of connectivity – through border closures, separations, sealing-off, quarantines – does not lead to the elimination of connections. Rather, it leads to a reorganization of the points of contact that hold our world together and carry it into the future. There is a phase shift in the socio-economic systems.
The world to come will once again appreciate distance – and precisely because of this will make connectedness more qualitative. Autonomy and dependence, opening and closing, will be re-balanced. This can make the world more complex, but at the same time more stable. This transformation is largely a blind evolutionary process – because the one fails, the new, viable, prevails. This makes you dizzy at first, but then it proves its inner meaning: what is viable for the future is that which connects the paradoxes on a new level.
This process of complexation – not to be confused with complication – can also be consciously shaped by people. Those who can, who speak the language of the complexity to come, will be the leaders of tomorrow. The becoming bearers of hope. The coming GRETAS.
„Through Corona, we will adjust our entire outlook on life – in terms of our existence as living beings in the midst of other life forms.“
Slavo Zizek at the height of the Corona crisis in mid-March
Every deep crisis leaves behind a story, a narrative that points far into the future. One of the strongest visions left behind by the corona virus are the Italians playing music on the balconies. The second vision is sent to us by satellite images that suddenly show the industrial areas of China and Italy free of smog. In 2020, the CO² emissions of mankind will fall for the first time. This fact will do something to us.
Author: Rainer den Ouden
With the friendly support of www.zukunftsinstitut.de