Not the New Normal

What’s the trend? What’s going to be the New Normal, in business and elsewhere?

Perhaps it’s just that time of year when people indulge in pointless ‘predictions’, but I’ve been seeing lots of articles recently that something-or-other either is or is going to be ‘the New Normal’. Cloud-computing, or ubiquitous-computing; Big-Data, or small-data; social-business, or unsocial-business; outsourcing, or insourcing: the list goes on and on and on.

So let’s be blunt about this: it’s garbage. All of it.

Or at best, it’s wishful-thinking of the worst order: hope and hype as a substitute for strategy.

Yes, sure, any and all of those themes may be relevant, and real, and maybe even useful, somewhere. But ‘New Normal’, in the same certain sense of ‘normal’, as over the past few decades? Nah: not a chance, frankly.

Sure, uncertainty can be uncomfortable, even painful at times – but so what? To quote the masked Man In Black in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness! – anyone who says differently is selling something”. And, yes, there are a lot of people out there selling certainties that don’t exist, promising that the future will be just as predictable as the past, only better. The big-consultancies are famed for it: in essence, that’s their entire business-model in a nutshell – arguably only one step shy of outright fraud. Oh well. The stock-exchanges demand certainty – which is just plain stupid. The big banks are no better: the word ‘mortgage’ literally translates as ‘death-pledge’, entrapping almost everyone into a need for long-term certainty where no such certainty can be had. And governments? – well, perhaps least said there, the better too…

The idea of ‘normal’ makes sense only when there’s something to be ‘normal’ about – something that stays the same long enough for it to become seemingly ‘normal’. But the reality is that nothing stays the same forever; no-one is exactly the same as everyone else. So what’s ‘normal’? Who says?

In practice, that so-popular pretence of ‘normal’ can only hold together if the ‘variety-weather‘ - the variety of the variety in the context – rises to no more than the level of the gentlest breeze. And in most real-world contexts, we’re already heading full-speed into stormy-weather – technology-change, social-change, economic-change, risk-change, climate-change – and what few signs there are that make sense all suggest it’s going to get a lot stormier yet. Trying to hold onto certainties that don’t exist is perhaps the quickest of all ways to create ever-more-destructive uncertainty: not wise…

For enterprise-architecture – and everything else, for that matter – the only way that does work is to stop pretending that there can be any such thing as certainty. Instead, turn round to face the uncertainty: learn to work with it, accept it for what it is. That’s probably the only way that your organisation will be able to thrive – or even survive – in the ‘interesting times’ up ahead.

The ‘New Normal’ is that there is no ‘New Normal’ – and there may well never be one, ever again.

Get over it.

Get used to it.

Get real.

About all that needs to be said about that, really.

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Posted in Business, Complexity / Structure, Enterprise architecture, Futures
4 comments on “Not the New Normal
  1. Bruce Waltuck says:

    I must disagree about the advent of “new normals.” Just as William Gibson famously noted that “the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed,” so too are various “new normals” continuing to emerge in the world. There never really is one ovrarching “normal” in the world. There are pockets of coherence in which there is relative stability and predictability. I do believe that the cycles of stability and uncertainty are accelerating. It is like the discovery that the universe itself is moving apart at an accelerating rate.

    Strategy in the face of turbulence and unknowables, may not succeed. Different skills and capacities are needed to navigate the Sea of Chaos. But at the same time, we need the know-how to chart a purposeful path through the calmer waters of any “new normal.”

    Bruce W., M.A., Complexity, Chaos, and Creativity

    • Tom G says:

      Words after my own heart, Bruce – strongly agreed! :-)

      – “But at the same time, we need the know-how to chart a purposeful path through the calmer waters of any ‘new normal.’”

      That’s probably the trickiest bit, isn’t it? – knowing which set of tactics to use in different contexts and different ‘variety-weather’, which in turn requires knowing what the current variety-weather is. Something that I’d be keen to explore with you somewhen, if you would?

  2. Gene Hughson says:

    Indeed. Even in death, there is no stasis. “Be careful what you wish for” is, as ever, good advice.

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