The Great Accelerator and a New Intimacy

Lessons from our first virtual NY Breakfast Club

During these strange times we’re doing our best to stay connected. Right now this means more listening and less talking, as we try to better understand what life looks like for our friends and partners.

Our latest Breakfast Club followed this theme; an opportunity for people to listen and learn from each other, to understand what we’re all seeing and feeling.

The particular group of business leaders we gathered together represent many parts of the economy (it’s not often you get Mastercard and Sesame Street on the same call) but despite the diversity of industry and sector, it was fascinating to see the common threads running through our experience, thoughts and expectations for the future.

It was also amazing to see such positivity and optimism.

There’s no doubt there are hard times ahead. But the group was equally sure the crisis will reshape business and society in ways previously unimaginable, potentially bringing great value and benefit if we’re brave enough to reach for it.

The Great Accelerator

We’re seeing what was possible all along.”

The first idea to emerge was that whatever changes were currently underway – whether in digital transformation, in the drive to greater flexibility and agility, or an increasing focus on wellbeing and balance – have suddenly received a huge bolt of energy and urgency.

The paths we were slowly following are now being raced along at a pace we’ve never experienced; changes implemented at a speed we never thought possible: teams formed, products created, and policies implemented in a matter of weeks.

And alongside this, an explosion of innovation, fresh new thinking and approaches— a complete redefinition of what’s possible. We’ve seen that with the right catalyst we can make anything happen.

The New Intimacy

This has all forced a shift onto empathy, connectivity, togetherness.”

One of the biggest and most positive changes we’ve all seen is a newfound consideration and sense of care for each other, the simple acknowledgement of our common humanity.

We talked about how our team calls now start with a five-minute check-in to see how we are. How we’ve suddenly discovered more in the last four weeks about each other’s dogs, kids, parents, than we had in the previous four years.

And with that a sense of intimacy, of being in each other’s living rooms, has blurred the distinction between our professional and personal selves and connected us in deep and profound ways.

The New Priorities

It’s forced people to see the value of IRL.”

As someone in the Breakfast Club said, We tend to overplay the short-term change, underplay long-term change – and we mustn’t do it this time. While we crave to return to normality, the reality is that this unprecedented event will have a significant and lasting impact.”

From a business perspective, three big themes emerged:

VALUE: We’re all going to have to take a long hard look at the merit in what we do as a business and how it genuinely brings real value to people.

CONNECTION: It’s absolutely essential that we get close to our customers in a way we’ve never had to before. To work together to redefine what we do and how we do it, to stay relevant and meaningful in a world that’s suddenly quite different.

TRUST: During times like this we’re all looking for sources we can trust, which means there will never be a higher premium on authenticity, on truly human brands that show heart and soul.

A Harsh Light

Ultimately, the crisis has shone a harsh light on society and shown up many things that were broken and imbalanced, but that we somehow managed to ignore or live with. It’s exposed weaknesses in our systems of government and businesses that are going to be hard to fix.

However, that same light has also highlighted great strength, resilience, imagination and kindness.

This great pause we’re experiencing provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-make and re-shape the world we want to live in. After an hour in the company with some brilliant leaders I came away more optimistic than ever that the future ahead will be better than the past we’re leaving behind.

Huge thanks to Cindy, Melissa, Theresa, Katie, Jason, Ivan, Lauren and Matt.

April 2020