The New Normal: Business As Usual Redux

April 8, 2010

In the post 9/11, post-Lehman era, in which many things we had previously taken for granted have been turned upside down, we are beginning to grapple with what has been called the ‘new normal’. It may seem like an oxymoron; after all, what has new got to do with normal? Can normal be ‘new’? So what was there before that – the ‘old’ normal? In the ‘old’ normal, people made money hand over fist, people spent it like there was no tomorrow, smallcountry-sized corporations were too big to fail and people got on with life feeling safe in the status quo. As we press on into twentyten and struggle to get out of this seemingly semi-permanent, here-to-stay economic downturn, things have changed. There’s been a shift. Nothing, no-one’s safe anymore. Certainty is hard to come by, who knows what tomorrow is going to bring? The unthinkable has already happened: Lehman brothers failed, Greece is on the brink of defaulting and needs to be bailed out, the unshakably strong Euro is being dragged down, the most reliable carmaker in the world, Toyota, is in the process of recalling millions of vehicles… one thing is certain – this new paradigm pulls no punches and we’re all still reeling. It’s like the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Nevertheless, now I want to get to the nub of the matter. Everything’s changed/nothing’s changed. What I mean is that maybe in the new normal the rules have changed, but the game hasn’t. According to the new rules, engagement and immediacy are the watchwords – seize the day, be nimble. Yet in many senses it’s all just business as usual. Banks have started making money again, markets are busy trading away as never before, consumption’s picking up. Markets, economies, society, human nature are evolving and adapting in this Darwinian reset/reboot. This is the new normal – the next stage, what comes after the forward slash in this great web of things we call life.

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