I’m sure I’m in the same boat as a lot of people when I mention that during the pandemic, I miss the friction of ideas that come up due to random conversations, meetings, or drinks with people that I might just bump into when I am out and about or run into a conference or something.
As we’ve moved through July, to help myself fight this, I’ve been hosting a bunch of new episodes of the podcast I do for the business of entertainment, tickets, sports, and other fun things so I had an excuse to have conversations with folks about what the world looks like and how we are going to deal with recovering from the pandemic.
From these conversations, I started to form a hypothesis of what skills we likely need to move forward coming out of the pandemic to be successful. Here are three skills I think will take a bigger role in our businesses and careers heading forward:
Coping with ‘Wicked Environments’:
A ‘Wicked Environment’ is a way of giving a complex system like the world we live in a fun name. A ‘Kind Environment’ is like a game with set rules and clear beginnings and endings.
Obviously, we all live in a wicked environment everyday and if it is possible, the environment seems to get even more wicked every day.
Unfortunately, as we’ve reached the end of this economic cycle, we have seen far too many organizations try and wedge their employees and their partners into situations where they are only adept at one skill or able to tackle one kind of problem, as if the world they exist in is just like a game with no surprises and a set approach that we should take.
If the pandemic has taught us nothing, we need to recognize that limiting the way that we view the world is a bad idea and that we need to be able to draw from a diverse set of experiences to push ourselves forward.
That’s called coping with a ‘Wicked Environment’.
Ability to avoid the same patterns:
I read something about the beginner’s mind somewhere that stuck with me. I’ll probably butcher the quote, but the gist of it is “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities and in the expert’s mind there are only a few.”
This is meant to illustrate that the more we know about a topic, the more likely it becomes that we think we have seen it all before. We develop a bias towards patterns.
Studies have shown that chess players, artists, and other savants that seem to have photographic memories are utterly useless when confronted with patterns that don’t match the “normal” way of doing things or approaching their work.
This matters for us now because as we head out of the pandemic, it is likely that we will need to be a little more open to experimentation and approaching our jobs, careers, and lives with a bit more creativity.
In coming out of the financial crisis in 2008-2009, one of my great failings was trying to stick to the way that I had always done things before and looking for the patterns that had always worked for me.
Learn from me and recognize that you are going to have to be less attached to the patterns that got you here because they may not be the ones that move you forward from here.
Broaden your horizons:
I was talking with someone last week and we were talking about how we are dealing with the free time we have during the pandemic when it is tougher to go and do things that you might normally do during the summer.
I mentioned that I was reading more than I had in previous years.
How much more?
In a typical year, I will read about a book a week. So far this year, I’ve read 65 books.
Why does this matter and what does this have to do with broadening our horizons or coming back from the pandemic?
Nothing or everything…I don’t know.
Why the book reading matters is that it allows me to change my perspective and see examples from different folks, industries, and times.
If you are on Goodreads, look me up and you will see the 700+ books I’ve read since I signed up and you’ll notice that they are pretty diverse.
As the pandemic has played out, I’ve found myself searching for lessons in fiction and the writings of Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, and Paul Auster. Carver talking about the small, simple actions of partners, friends, and people. Don DeLillo painting big picture ideas that draw from all over the world of ideas. And, Paul Auster mixing a gritty and very NYC voice with ideas that cover a lot of territory.
On the non-fiction side, I’ve been re-reading a lot of Peter Drucker’s work because it still feels alive and relevant and his job was always to look towards the future, but I’ve also been reading stuff from Seth Godin, Tom Peters, and many others.
I mention this because the books don’t replace experience, but they do supplement the experiences and give me different perspectives.
Which coming into an environment with a lot of uncertainty still likely to be the norm for the next 8-12 months, it is good to have a set of ideas to fall back on or draw from.
Are these the only 3 ideas that we need going forward?
But they are a good jumping off point to start.