Think We're Going Back To Business As It Was? Think AGAIN

New habits are emerging. Quickly. Pay attention. They’re here to stay.

Think of them as Emergent Strategy. Emergent Strategy is the wisdom of our times.

Will we still be on Zoom when all of this is over? That’s the sort of question that infuriates the heck out of me. STOP asking the going-back-to-the-past questions. You’re missing the point. This is the time of Emergent Stuff.

Of course Zoom is here to stay.

Emergent strategy is what you might call a happy accident or an unplanned success. Canadian academic Henry Mintzberg (“Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning”) coined the term several decades ago, as a contrast to formal strategic planning. Emergent strategy happens as the result of actions that come together and create a pattern that wasn't really part of your original plan. These actions, consistent over time, become an emerged strategy, based on the unexpected consequences of our actions.

Hello, daily virtual meetings.

Here’s the classic Nyquil example. What do you do when you're testing a cold medicine designed to help people function but it actually puts people to sleep? Why, name the product NyQuil and brand it as nighttime cold relief. It wasn't NyQuil's intended strategy, but it is an emergent strategy that has kept the product on stores' shelves and nightstands for decades.

The beauty of what emerges.

The most radical disruption of my own life happened in the early 1990s when I left my Manhattan to live on the island of Tobago for a year and become a windsurfer. I became a good one. I windsurfed a lot. Most importantly, each day unfolded in a way so radically different from the life I had known in Manhattan. Time moved differently. My perspective on absolutely every aspect of my life changed. A whole lot of new insight emerged.

Think of our current time as your Nyquil or Tobago.

My colleagues, my clients, my friends, my competitors and I are all in deep emergent strategy time right now. If we let it be, this is guaranteed to be transformative.

Here are a few of my favorite things that are emerging right now:

Rediscover the start of your day
Every highly successful person I know has clearly defined morning habits. How we spend the first 2 hours of our day tends to exponentially influence the success of everything else that follows. My work with clients often dissects just exactly how they dedicate these early hours.

What is emerging: I’m one of those annoyingly perky early-morning people. I can function quickly. A cup of coffee. A quick shower, and I will hop onto the computer. My new mornings have morphed into a roughly 2-hour languid start. That’s VERY slow for me. I don’t do much of anything. Yes, a coffee. Some breakfast. Some moments in the garden by the pool. Some social media. Every activity performed slower than before. Way slower. And I suddenly feel a lot more present to these first 2 hours. Much more alert. I have a hunch slower starts are here to stay. They’re working.

Talk with your competition
Whether you’re an executive in a global enterprise or a solopreneur, you have your networks. Some of the folks in these networks might be considered your “professional competition.” I have ditched the word competition from my vocabulary a long time ago. Many of the very successful “competitors” in my line of work are also personal friends. As we move through this time of professional upheaval, there isn’t a day when I don’t have a conversation with one of them. We share strategies. We brainstorm. We rally together.

What is emerging: The time of figuring things out solo or with your small in-house team is over. Yes, speak with your clients. But in a time of brazen unpredictability, activate your other networks. Have a peer advisory group. Hang out in a Mastermind Group. Engage. This accelerates your thinking. Hones your mental acuity. Speak with others more frequently, not less. Don’t isolate in the familiar channels.

Be more deeply in relationship
These non-stop virtual meetings are exhausting. I heard this comment last week, the purpose of the meetings is redundant – yeah, I feel for you. We’ve all been in those. But here is the current paradox: Our new virtual world is, in many ways, more intimate than our in-person past. In an in-person meeting we can tune out folks and just focus on the speaker. In a virtual meeting everyone is equally present, in close-up, all the time. We’re visually stimulated. All the time. Although we’re not in the same room, intimacy is heightened. It requires a whole other level of concentration. Show up for it.

What is emerging:
Start to develop your higher-attention-muscle. This is your new muscle memory. And because it is imperative that you exercise this muscle, you will be a more astute and insightful contributor in the days and months to come. Warning: Don’t even think of not turning on the video. That is shamefully rude. And I know you don’t want to be rude.

Run with your creative instincts
In a time of disruption, dormant creative impulses yearn to bust out. The creative responses to the many emergencies we face in our communities are proof of that. My creative impulses? The urge to start a new book has been here for months. Last week I reshuffled my calendar to conduct most of my client work in the mornings and write in the afternoon. To my total shock, a whole other book is also beginning to “talk to me.”  So I have decided I’ll see where that will take me, as well. And I’m having great fun creating some really luscious virtual Masterclasses. All new. Creativity unleashed.

What is emerging: “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” This is one of my favorite quotes by the poet Rumi. I begin my LinkedIn narrative with it. It is the voice that doesn’t stifle. Doesn’t resist. The voice that is open to what’s emerging. This voice is there all the time. It is your emergent leadership wisdom. We usually don’t listen. Right now, choose to listen, and choose to act on what you hear.

Have the courage to stay in emergent-strategy-mode. What is emerging for you? Notice with curiosity. Pay attention. Listen.

Act on it. Now.

Because chances are, you and I are not going back.

Related: What Competent Leadership Looks Like