What Does It Mean If Instability Is Your Norm?

What Does It Mean If Instability Is Your Norm?

The question “What if…?” holds tremendous power. It’s one that I’ve been asking with increasing frequency.

Leaders are navigating extremely challenging times. EVERYTHING is turbulent and unpredictable as the ground shifts constantly. I often find myself on the receiving end of a question that takes several forms yet is essentially the same. Basically, it goes like this, “When will all this end and things return to normal?”

What Is “Normal” Anyway?

Soothsaying and crystal ball gazing are not my specialty. Although at the end of 2021, I did say this: “Black Swan events are going to come faster and more furiously, so get prepared to be nimble, whatever that means for you.” My prior “prediction” aside, I do believe that “normal” has packed its bags and is looking at us in the rearview mirror. Because of this, I’ve started asking myself a different question about our current situation. It goes something like this…

What if the current period of instability we’ve entered IS what’s normal and the period prior to this was the abnormality?

This isn’t meant to be a glass-half-empty question or a warning to buy gold and hoard ammunition. Instead, I’m pondering whether most of us alive today have been living in an artificial bubble of stability that is now deflating. One high-minded version of this scenario asks whether the neo-liberal, rules-based, Western Democracy post-World War II order has been permanently upset while another more basic scenario prevails. In the new scenario, we are essentially tribal animals returning to our more fractious natural selves.

Regardless of the foundation you base your own version of “What if this instability is normal?” upon, the question is worth pondering as part of your planning process. Be sure to keep in mind that while instability appears undesirable, it results in opportunities if you’re flexible enough to see — and seize — the possibilities that arise.

To that end, be sure to build out different versions of both negative and positive potentialities based on the current instability. Here are a few macro examples to get your wheels turning.

What if…

  • Geopolitical instability continues to ripple outward?
  • Supply chains continue to behave unpredictably?
  • Two jobs remain open for every available applicant in the U.S.?
  • China continues to proceed through one COVID lockdown after another?
  • The pace of disruptive change continues to accelerate?
  • The resurgence of NATO’s viability in response to the war in Ukraine not only enables greater overall European security but also invigorates European Union economic power in such a way that the U.S. feels compelled to accelerate the formation of higher-level trading partnerships in the U.S. hemisphere and the Pacific Rim?
  • The relocation of heavy manufacturing away from China to other countries raises wages and living standards in other countries thus creating new consumers for U.S. goods?
  • Growing disillusionment with market-based investments leads to the creation of new, private funding sources for middle-market companies?
  • The transition from internal combustion engines toward electric vehicles accelerates the commercialization of new battery technologies resulting in devices that require monthly, not daily charging?

After you start with the big “What if?” questions, begin asking smaller “What if?” questions. Drill down to ask about the potential impact upon your industry, geographic region, customer base, employee pool, etc., etc.

The deeper-dive questions will vary greatly from one organization to the next. Yet all can unlock tremendous possibilities. The key is to start with the supposition that change is accelerating and there will be no return to “normal” any time soon. From there, as the saying goes, “Go wild. Go crazy. Go nuts.”

In an unstable world, those that embrace the instability instead of bemoaning its challenges are the ones who will thrive.

Want to chat about how to succeed in an unstable environment? Give me a call.


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