A period of temporary balance always follows disruption, and the challenge is to find that balance, different to the old “normal” balance, whilst also accepting it is temporary. The systems we are part of continue to evolve faster than we do, so now and again, we need to adjust. The longer we leave it, the more disturbing it is.
In this morning’s Economist, Bartleby’s column reminded me of this, referring to the collapse of the traditional business suit market and the emergence of a new “hybrid” market somewhere between the disappearance of the old and the “top half only” etiquette of Zoom.
Perhaps the same is happening not just in our dress codes but also in our understanding of, and attitudes to, work itself.
Over the last half-century, the infrastructure of work has changed out of all recognition. Where it’s run from, who is involved, and what it does makes the idea of concern about what we wear almost laughable. Yet, we still have the guardians of the old fretting, from the etiquette of the British House of Commons (which I often think is still coming to terms with the telephone) to the icons of the “respectable” world of banking. Worrying about ties and offices even whilst their world continues to be changed by people they will never meet, alternating between basements and beaches on the other side of the world.
I wonder what opportunities that might mean for the rest of us caught between resistant establishment and opportunistic entrepreneurs? When work moves from where to how and rigid hierarchies succumb to fluid networks, it is time for us to embrace the temporarily uncomfortable.
What we wear pales into insignificance alongside our relationship with what we currently spend most of our life doing – working.
I sense it is time for “real” networks more than the confection of “peer groups” and “speed dating” that merely act as tie consuming shock absorbers to an outdated vehicle.
Small networks of people, different in skills and experience, who share the same emerging idea of what they want in life for themselves or their children and grandchildren.
Just as hierarchies succumb to networks, so convenient but artificial segmentation by age gives way to diverse communities gathered around ideas of shared purpose and values—digital villages more than gated communities.
What a great opportunity to rebalance.