The Year of Covid: What did we learn?

The Year of Covid: What did we learn?

Lessons from the Year of Covid and what our industry can teach us now about it. Shashidhar Nanjundaiah explains.

It was the Year of Covid. But 2020 was also a year of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. It was also a year of learning, both steep and quick. It was a year when the industry realised it was time to take charge. It was a humbling, ego-crushing year for most of us. It was certainly a year when business owners realised that letting go of conventional controls was not easy, yet necessary—and the results were mostly surprising.

It was not the year when it was business as usual. It was not a year when anything seemed normal. It was not a year of sitting back and watching the machine chug away like in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, as the protagonist struggled to keep pace with it. It was certainly not the year when we could take human endeavour for granted.

So much happened this year that, as Dr Brijesh Dixit tells us, it was a packed year of learning and adapting, adopting and implementing, realising and rethinking.

As Anuj Puri—and singer Kelly Clarkson—put it rightly, quoting Nietzsche: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Year of Covid certainly seemed to fortify a lot, from human systems to industrial systems, from professional to personal relationships.

This was the year that put the human in Human Resources. As Sunil Srivastava says, the year taught us to trust our people more. What did that do to human relations? No, I mean as the department. Sorry, that was Human Relations. As a department. Isn’t that what we should be calling it anyway? Humans turned out more than resources. Never liked that word anyway.

It was, therefore, a year of rediscovery and reinvention of processes and thought. The year forced the industry to reorient their focus to stuff that’s beyond time and space. Quite literally, it seems. People worked longer hours and from all over the world. It was a year that made geography redundant—at least for now. And when did our straitjacketed industries last have people attend meetings in shorts and t-shirts? As Arvind Subramanian points out, it was a year when we learnt to experiment.

Our belief that what we see is what we get went out the window. And while at it, as AAV Ranga says, it crushed our ego in a way as to make us think, beyond our hubris, at not merely adopting, but adapting, as Mario Schmidt points out: Adapt and seize, adapt and seize. That’s the new continuum, it seems. We have for too long assumed that change comes with crisis. As Gopal Sarda suggests, perhaps we should rethink that convenient norm ... for a change.

But let us not forget that a step forward also took us back in time in some ways. Remember the pre-Liberalisation days when, in hindsight, we were minimalistic? This year has reminded us to value minimalism, as Arnab Ghosh and Nalin J Gupta superbly remind us.

Of course, the year is over but the new normal continues. Nothing can substitute the physicality of the spaces we occupy and the security that brick-and-mortar brings. Yet. Thankfully. The new year has to be better not because somehow things will come “back to normal”, but because we will continue in the new normal we just created in the Year of Covid.

 Team: Praharshi Saxena, Neeraja Hari, WinWin Creatives.

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