Never let a good crisis go to waste

So, after all the social distancing, the Stay-at-Home shouting, the endless washing and sanitising of hands, the other side of the bridge is now coming into view.

And what does it look like? A bursting out of hibernation, or waking up with a bad hangover?

A reset does sound positive, but what do we have left in the tank … and what useless things have we brought with us?

Are we really entering a new paradigm where toilet paper is the new oil (it was in fact worth more this week), or are these just temporary dislocations? How long can the Middle East, or Russia, survive an oil price below 420 a barrel.

The virus has certainly made all nations climb the burning platform – some had the nous to jump early, while others stayed till the end before the horrible jump into chaos.

But from all crises comes opportunity.

We are doing things not believed possible, or certainly which seemed once beyond our political will.

People are now talking to their neighbours, reconnecting with family, friends and having conversations with people they don’t know but with whom they have much in common, all from an appropriate distance of course.

Working from home has been embraced, home-schooling has lost its stigma, politicians are now riding high on science rather than denying it and (wait for it) banks are ringing us to ask us nicely if we’d like to put off paying our mortgage for a few months.

Home delivered ice cream and cocktails must also be high on that happy list.

The tech skills of the population have increased dramatically – at the same rate at which our tolerance of a slow NBN has fallen.

We’re so impressed with Zoom, we don’t seem to care even if the FBI is joining our meetings.

It has been a wonderful example of adaptation where the “because-that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it” approach was finally put to rest.

And some sacred cows are now being questioned.

Why do Universities charge for a degree over four years when it can be completed it in two?

The wisdom of privatisation of essential infrastructure is under the spotlight once more.

After several decades of political manoeuvring to sell off public assets, we are finding some of these things are too important to our society and livelihoods again to let fail … or to become powerful monopolies again, Qantas being a prime case in point.

We’ve abruptly stopped bashing up the banks and now worry about if they are secure enough.

The hallowed pot of our $3 trillion pool of superannuation savings, locked away in the proverbial vault until we are 65, all of sudden opened up and showered us with coin.

Corporate buzzwords like “agile”, “pivot”, and “zooming in” now have real meaning and respect from old-school types.

And don’t get me started on the new normal for flexible work arrangements.

At the personal level everybody is coming out of the haze with recalibrated priorities.

So, besides the obvious fundamentals of toilet paper, hand sanitiser, flour and alcohol what do we need to flourish (or at least survive) on the other side?

Should we continue to live day-to-day or begin to plan, dream even, of a new future, uncertainty notwithstanding?

Globalisation has taken a hit – is it lethal?

Should small businesses bother with their plans to export? Should they position themselves for the possible return of local procurement rules.

None of this is normal, of course, and when we do get to the other side I expect there will be yet another set of new normals.

Perhaps an app that can remind us in real time which new normal we are currently in.

Tim Willcox

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