Thriving in a pandemic-induced new normal


The inability to accept and believe in the existence of multiple truths at the same time is perhaps one of the most fundamental flaws of the human race.

Given that our lives are now dominated by the waxing and waning of the pandemic’s intensity, the archetypal approaches of planning and coping have been rendered useless and there is an urgent need to make sense of the moment in just that moment, not before or after.

This uncertainty, per se, has a far more damaging potential than any looming fiscal cliff, the debt crisis or a weak financial system. An examination of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the hard-fought recovery that followed will show that, fiscal measures apart, determined business enterprises stood at the core of the upswing. As American economist Frank G Steindl inferred in one of his papers, the phenomenon that really drove the recovery was increasing productivity, spurred by technological progress.

There is no doubt that tough times are ahead of us. As we try to make sense of and adjust with the new normal, a few ideas need to be taken forward to fix our tomorrow and make it what we want it to be.

Accept uncertainty

One cannot predict the end of the pandemic or even how long it is likely to last. It’s time to accept the “certainty of uncertainty”. We need to muster resilience and move forward with conviction in our collective ability to come through stronger.

Most of us have tried hard to steady our boats in the brief periods of respite between the so-called waves of infections. Yet, things haven’t quite shaped up the way we would have liked.

There is no risk-free growth model available in the global economy today. Further, in more ways than one, the pandemic has made us realise the inadequacies of our knowledge and the inefficiency of some of our models.

It is, therefore, critical that we adopt a risk-friendly mindset in the near future.

For all their differences, the one common principle on Wall Street and Main Street is that following the tide won’t get us ahead. We have to be counter-intuitive, trust our instincts and carve our own path in the prevailing environment. Remember, every crisis presents an opportunity to test new models and seek innovation in unlikely places.

Very often, this will require going against conventional wisdom or its modern equivalent — herd mentality. Do not let the fear of being lonely on a trail prevent you from taking the road less taken.

Success is never hostage to keywords or buzzwords that may otherwise look grand or important on presentation decks. There is no equivalent to getting your hands dirty by doing on-ground work and being present in the field with a hawk’s eye.

Aim to fly high by keeping yourself firmly planted to the ground. Not only is this a solid tether to your plans or ambitions in case of Mayday, this approach allows you to go back to basics to discover your plan B or even version 2 of plan A.

Never before have so many of us realised how intricately yet firmly connected we are as global citizens. The virus, in many ways, is a tragic reminder of how these connections can bring grief and pain to even the remotest corners of the world which may so far have been a bit disconnected.

Yet, at the same time, global vaccine alliances are also a testament to the world’s collective will to fight and de-activate the virus. So where do we go from here? There are three words that could hold some cues for the forward journey: ‘unreasonable’, ‘fearless’ and ‘faith’.

Unreasonable because with reason, you cannot go as far as your belief may want you to go. Fearless because only companies that redraw contours and take innovation can come out successful in the coming years. And faith, as at the end, it’s all about keeping the faith; as Dori says in Finding Nemo, just keep swimming.

The writer is former CEO of

HCL Technologies

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