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Welcome to the new normal

Practical Futurist Andrew Grill looks at the new norm and how technology can be used to effect lasting change as we return to work.

When I presented at the Royds Withy King’s Decade Ahead event back in January, I was asked to make predictions for the next decade. With my Practical Futurist hat on, I also offered some for the future further ahead.

Fast-forward to just a few weeks later: the whole world was in lockdown and we were all enrolled in the world’s largest work from home experiment – whether we liked it or not.

Disruption provides an opportunity for change

As someone who speaks extensively about the positive impacts of digital disruption on companies and whole industries, I watched as everyone around me took part in the accidental, but largely successful ‘transformation in a compressed timeline’ experiment. The challenge now is to put this into play going forward as business as usual.

The evolution of the ‘3rd place’

Over the last three months, I’ve spoken to and interviewed many people who are settling into the ‘away from the office’ routine and are actually finding themselves to be far more productive than ever before for a multitude of reasons.

At the Decade Ahead event, I spoke about how “in the future” we may find ourselves working in a hybrid situation between the home and the office in a ‘3rd place’. As we move to a future normal, this may become standard operating practice.

I heard anecdotally about one large high street bank that went from 50,000 ‘in the office’ workers to work from home scenario in a matter of days. If this is an example of digital transformation, then the fact that it happened almost overnight, without the need to hold endless focus groups and run multiple technology trials, shows that we as humans can achieve almost anything if we remove the barriers to change.

Cash is no longer king

Australia has been a standout country in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Their response will also provide a view on how industries may recover. The banking industry is one that has experienced rapid change, as consumers shun physical cash for obvious reasons and move to digital payments.

The new UK-born CEO of National Australia Bank Ross McEwan says that the digital banking revolution has happened in “10 weeks not 5 years”. This is extraordinary and should be a bellwether for other markets.

Stats from Australia show ATM use down 40%, and contactless payments up 65%.

The tectonic shift to digital in services beyond banking is likely to be permanent, and this may be one of the many lessons from Covid-19.

Collaboration and working out loud

Another interesting outcome from the pandemic was the need for us all to develop ways of collaborating digitally. There’s a multitude of tools available, however to truly harness the benefits of remote collaboration I believe you need to develop a ‘working out loud’ mindset. The philosophy behind this is outlined in a book of the same name by John Stepper. He argues that by letting others know what you are working on transparently, collaboration can be far more effective.

The need for digital curiosity

As we move into an increasingly more digital world, it falls to all of us to become more digitally curious and better understand what these new technologies can (and cannot) do for us instead of blindly using them hoping they will solve the problems of distance and remote collaboration.


If ever there was a wakeup call for greater global comradery and collective governance, the CV-19 pandemic is it. Humanity requires a common voice and global leadership to defeat the coronavirus.

This is recognised worldwide and seems to have brought with it a thirst for solidarity. It has also made it very clear to many that we are all part of one eco-system and that selfish ways of living affects our planet and ourselves negatively. I believe the “old normal” is gone forever but the “new normal” has not yet emerged.

There is a good chance that we will see positive changes to how we live professionally and personally to embrace more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable ways. It could be the emergence of increased use of peer-governance with channels for much wider participation of different stakeholders. This could be true for both governments and businesses and would be a very positive change.


Read more from this edition of Ahead of the Curve

Table of contents

Feature two:

The challenge for restaurants has rarely been greater; with the rise of app based delivery services and now coronavirus, how can the leisure and hospitality sector adapt to survive?


Feature three:

How is the new normal going to impact on how and where we work. Our real estate team looks at how the new role of the new office is having to change at a rapid pace.


Feature four:

Our regular feature looks at the workforce of the future. How has the coronavirus lockdown impacted on how we all work? And what will this look like going forward?


Feature five:

Graphcore are a company to keep an eye on. We spoke to Nigel Toon, CEO of Graphcore – a Bristol  business which brings Brunel spirit to a modern problem.


Feature six:

The housing market has been severely hit by the lockdown with sever restrictions on house viewings. But now things have started to free up, how can the industry future-proof itself?


Feature seven:

The health and social care sector has been at the epicentre of the coronavurus pandemic. Will this solution keep residents safe, whilst managing their need for social interaction?


Feature eight:

Video conferencing has been one of the heroes of lockdown. From social quizzes to board meetings – but people who have experienced a brain injury may find VC challenging…


Feature nine:

The book review – The new long life. Our regular book review feature, this time we look at The New Long Life, a book that looks at the challenges and opportunities of longevity.


Feature ten:

Coronavirus has moved the concept of climate away from the front and centre of many peoples minds, but should we be taking this opportunity build back a greener future?


Feature eleven:

In our regular feature Leading Edge, a selected charity is offered exclusive access to the back page of our magazine, this month it is CESA, the cauda equina syndrome charity.

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