Grasping for the New Normal

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 13, 2011

2008 was a watershed year: financial crises, bailouts, earthquakes, droughts, floods and myriad other forms of pestilence.   And the trend hasn’t stopped. Tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and record unemployment continue to affect us, resulting in continual churn in the marketplace.

I also see many executives hoping that this constant churn will stop – and we’ll all go back to “normal”.  Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening soon.

We are living in the “new normal”, and that requires some different thinking.  I call it “new normal” thinking where you really don’t know for sure what is going to work.  What has worked before may work in the new normal; chances are, it won’t.

You just have to try to do things differently and see if you get better results.   Of course, this presents a problem: Many of us were recognized and rewarded for our successes before 2008 – and it is incredibly difficult to let go of what we know has worked in the past. It worked before…why shouldn’t it work again?  Because we are in the new normal and the rules have changed.  The economy has changed.  Buying patterns have changed.  Expectations have changed.

It’s an exasperating conversation as we wrap our heads around this astounding fact: What has worked before may or may not work in the new normal.

So, you have to try a whole bunch of things (old and new) and then measure the results.  See if you are actually improving your condition or deluding yourself, praying that your tried-and-true methods are successful.  Data allows you to yank your head up out of the sand and see what is really going on.

It’s human nature to hold on to what has worked before.  No one likes to “fail” so we grasp at the best practices – the proven strategies and techniques that will make us successful in this new normal.  Unfortunately, what works for one may not work for another as businesses become more uniquely different.  You cannot simply overlay someone else’s best practices onto your own company’s culture and business model and expect it to work.  You have to adapt it to your culture and to the marketplace.

Which still means you have to try out a bunch of stuff and see if it improves your condition.  You may not even know what you are doing, but at least try to do something different.  Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Try to do something different –  and if you don’t like the results, then do something different!

Bruce Turkel is a brilliant company branding thought leader and he acknowledges that he “has no idea what I am doing.”  He continues to say “What I have in common with those experts is that they don’t have any idea what they’re doing anymore than I do.  They just do it anyway. And so do I. And, truth be told, so should you.  The key, as Nike taught us, is to “Just Do It.” Microsoft has built an enormous company around the notion of implementing first and perfecting later.”

So try it out.  Check it out.  If it doesn’t work, RIP it out.  Literally.  Ben and Jerry’s celebrates their failed flavors in a small cemetery behind their factory in Waterbury, VT.  The iconic ice cream company, which kills between 8-10 flavors every year, has to-date, over 200 flavors on its dearly departed list.  May all our bad ideas Rest In Peace. (Check out their virtual cemetery here and click on the “crypt”)

So don’t let failure keep you from trying.  Because no one really knows what they’re doing in the new normal.

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