What Comes Next After This is Up to Us
3 Steps to build the new normal: Dream, Lead & Adapt
Jannes Glas —Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, United States
When we are living through paradigm changing events; we feel that the ground is shifting below our feet, we become stressed, feel helpless and completely alone. Especially in times of massive real life experiments like this, where entire nations shut down, and we meet in our common anxiety, everyone looks equally lost.
However, human psychology continuously yearns for stability, wanting to know that things will be similar to what they were yesterday, and reach a new status quo as soon as possible. We adjust, we write a new myth and seek comfort in that. Just look around, we even managed to settle in this shaky environment, created our own routine, set new expectations for ourselves.
While we try to ease our minds though (‘there are no ghosts in the cupboard’), we also know that this is temporary, just a little pause. There’s something else that needs to come after this. That’s the ‘new normal’, more permanent, less ambiguous, which the majority of people think will be shaped by someone else and they’ll follow through safely (almost like the yellow brick road with proper signposts and resting areas).
So we wanted to demystify the ‘new normal’ and encourage founders to do what they do best now. Below are the main takeaways from our webinar held on June 2nd in association with Microsoft for Startups. If you’d rather watch the recording of the webinar, you can find it on our YouTube channel.
The new normal won’t be imposed upon us by someone who knows better than us — it will be co-created and controlled.
The bad news is; there are no experts to do that for us.
And what’s coming is not going to be a clear path, with no returns or mistakes; there will be cul de sacs and road works on this road, with arbitrary speed limitations and rogue drivers.
The good news is; we have the power and ability to create it by ourselves.
And that’s not the ‘royal we’, it includes everyone; consumers, entrepreneurs, investors, government and institutional entities. Entrepreneurs, who live and breathe unknowns and try to come up with predictable models in ambiguity to attract investors’ attention all the time, and the investors; who already buy into that model to be part of creating a new future, are used to this environment.
This new reality just adds another layer on top of what the entrepreneurs do best; being their creative selves, designing beautiful and useful objects, improving the lives of as many people as possible by developing services they don’t even know they need.
Besides, the old normal wasn’t good enough for many millions of people; this may be the chance for us to change that. But more importantly, we as human beings haven’t changed overnight; we still have the same social needs, we still need to go out, see friends, dine out, enjoy the popcorn in a cinema, do the mall walks. Human life is tragically short so as we strive to extend it, we carry our very old habits with us without realising it (just imagine yourself sitting in a self driving car, which I did and I caught myself hitting the imaginary break with my right foot during the entire journey!). So don’t expect the consumers to change drastically overnight, they’ll adapt, and the entrepreneurs will adapt with them.
What’s going to change is; how we do these activities from now on, in a safer and more inclusive way. We need a better normal in that sense. We’ll test and iterate until we get it right and this time hopefully until it’s right for the majority of people.
How to be a Creator Entrepreneur
Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking, published his ideas on the topic in 1967. Coming from a familiar pattern and arriving at a new, original solution by humour and surprise is the core of his theory. I’ll claim here that there’s still so much to learn and get inspired from theories similar to his. ‘Rivers of Thinking’ is another one. Human mind has evolved to think similar to how the rain fall behaves, as in; the first drops form a stream and then a river and all the others follow the same route. Our minds have a similar way of operating, neurologically, by nurture and experience; we form patterns to reach solutions quickly, which is life saving in many ways but can also hinder creative thinking. To get out of those patterns and see the alternatives requires ‘provocation’ and ‘stimulus’. We can find these in real literature and quality journalism at this time, so maybe instead of checking Twitter and Instagram only, going back to history and fiction is a better source of creativity.
Stephani Robson, who studies psychology of restaurants at Cornell University, suggests using a familiar set up to be compliant and still profitable in the post-covid restaurant business by using ‘booths’ more effectively instead of wasting valuable dining space with lonely tables spread around. There are many examples like that we could get inspired from.
‘Dream — Lead and Adapt’ as a Tool
The DLA model outlines the main phases a ‘creator’ company needs to go through at different stages of the economic recovery path. The Art part of the process is dreaming the potential scenarios out there and leading with the one you believe in, taking customers along and guiding them, and then continuously adapting based on iterations and monitoring.
The Science part is all familiar and fundamental to every startup and a second nature to all entrepreneurs: engage the users, build quickly and measure them.
Listening to consumers, understanding their needs and anxieties more than ever and trying to create something new and familiar at the same time as they’re still the same human beings is the key, but finding that right balance is not going to be easy. How do you know whether or not you hit the right nerve? By engaging them at every step of the way; soliciting their feedback, measuring the retention and continuously optimising towards better results.
There’s no plato of happy consumers, especially now. There will be price sensitives, safety neurotics, constant demanders, it will be a bumpy road.
Investors as ‘Dreamers’ and ‘Followers’
Just like entrepreneurs, we also have different kinds of investors: dreamers and followers. Either way, they always looked for predictable models in ambiguity and they will continue to do so. Entrepreneurs need to find the right investors and they need to nurture their relationships with their current investors. This cannot be done overnight, but will be helpful in the long term.
Entrepreneurs; nurture your relationship with your Investors
KYI: Know Your Investor:
Are they Dreamers or Followers? Adjust your messaging accordingly.
Over-communicate with them. Do more of what you have done before, more and better reporting (move from quarterly to monthly, weekly). If you haven’t built a trusted, periodic and continuous relationship with your current investors, it’ll be harder to stimulate them, you risk looking opportunistic. Don’t treat your investors as side-benchers who never trained before, let them play with you so that when times get tough, they’re ready to step in the game cheerfully.
Orient your reporting from past to future looking; make them part of your vision and dream so that they could be your co-creators.
The new world is not a total mystery, we are fully capable of shaping it with more collaboration, empathy and reason.