A Different Question:
During the last five or six months, groups I meet with have been discussing what is changing due to the pandemic. Yesterday, in one of those groups, I mentioned that I thought it was time to start considering other things than just the epidemic and all the change. One of our members suggested we talk about what is NOT changing! I like that idea, and I will be proposing that for the upcoming meetings.
We ventured out this week. Our plans to take a few day-trips were modified several times. Last week and part of this week
was supposed to be when our kids were visiting us. Of course, in March, we all agreed to cancel those plans due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our planned replacement day-trips were further disrupted by the Apple wildfire, which caused several sites we planned on visiting to close. So we scrambled to find different safe places to visit.
I was pleasantly surprised at what we found when we did finally get out. The three places we visited were the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Safari Park, and the Huntington Gardens. Each of these places is a controlled entry venue—meaning they require tickets and reservations.
These establishments required all employees and patrons to wear masks at all times. The only exception was when people were eating or drinking. Personal distancing was also a requirement. Many of the pathways were are now one way to keep folks from passing too closely. We observed that everyone was complying with the restrictions both in the letter as well as the spirit.
In preparation for our original plans, we had ordered cute Cheetah Masks from the San Diego Zoo for our whole family. We decided to wear them on our outings. Many strangers who saw us remarked at how much they liked our masks. They wanted to know where we got them. While staying distant and wearing their masks, they engaged us in conversation much the same as they would have before the new rules.
No Change—Food Required
After walking around in the heat of Southern California, we require food and drink. While food servers are now wearing masks and are conscientiously changing the foodservice gloves between each patron, the fact that they were serving and patrons were purchasing food has not changed. And, those of us purchasing still had to stand in line, although with proper distancing.
No Change—Babies Invite Engagement
I couldn’t help but observe while sitting and eating lunch outside, that two women across from us with babies still had my wife tell them (from a distance, of course) how cute the babies were. And, ever the grandmother, my wife talked to the babies and got them to smile back at her.
No Change—Tribal Animals
Humans are tribal animals. The fact that I (quite introverted) wound up enjoying seeing other people and watching how they were interacting means that basic human needs haven’t changed. There’s no denying that I enjoyed being out in the sun, and I enjoyed being with other people. And, being required to keep distant works just fine for me.
No Change—Human Nature
In yesterday’s conversation, we also shared that some negative human traits are also unchanged. One of our members had gone out for a walk along the beach. He observed that there were large crowds, close together on the beach with no sign of masks. Remember that we are in Southern California, where the number of infected people is still on the rise.
I am old enough to remember when the law required car seatbelt use. Many people, my father was one of them, declared that they were not going to let the government tell them what to do. After several expensive tickets and the embarrassment of being on the side of the road with the policeman writing them up, they began wearing their seatbelts. Now, my observation is that few people put their car in gear before buckling their seatbelt. I think wearing masks when we have colds or other symptoms will become second nature—just as it is in many other countries already.
So, what does all this have to do with business and leadership? First is that as business leaders, we have always had to deal with change. My mantra is the only constant is constant change. And, the conversation of late has been about what the new normal will be. But I like this question more. What will not change? How should I position my company to continue to provide service and products around what isn’t going to change? By asking that question, we must think about fundamental human nature rather than try and predict the future. Somehow, that seems more manageable.