2020 Insights Bring Success in 2021

Cultivating connectivity in a new normal

After navigating the ups and downs of a tumultuous 2020, the new year offers an inspiring path forward. In mid-December, a panel of experts in economics, creativity, and neuroscience came together for a Haworth Connect webinar to share insights on how to channel lessons from 2020 into new opportunities for success in 2021.

Drs. Natalie Nixon, Marci Rossell, and Allan Hamilton shared several similar themes despite their different experiences and expertise.

“Fireworks Economy”
The economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike any previously experienced. Dr. Marci Rossell, former chief economist for CNBC, concluded that the elevated savings rate at a personal level is key to understanding how the economy recovers fully in 2021.

Dr. Rossell acknowledged that she does not typically make economic forecasts, but says indicators suggest a difficult first quarter in 2021—at least until there is widespread distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. By the second quarter, she forecasts an economic resurgence that will benefit some of the businesses that have done poorly due to restrictions.

“I'm calling it the fireworks economy. I think you're going to have explosive growth in the second and third quarters of 2021, and it's not going to look like any recovery we have ever seen before.”

Dr. Marci Rossell

On the flipside, the downturn heightened a creative movement for many industries and pushed people into new work arrangements—like the ability to feel their best and be productive in a work-from-anywhere approach. Additionally, the pandemic escalated technology trends five to 10 years into the future—from the increased use of telemedicine to people doing basic grocery shopping online.

Creativity is the Engine for Innovation
Looking back at 2020, “this time of uncertainty has been designed for creativity and innovation,” said Dr. Natalie Nixon, a creative strategist and author of The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation and Intuition at Work.

Creativity is the engine for innovation. But creativity requires toggling between wonder and rigor—awe and asking big blue-sky questions as opposed to discipline and time on task—to solve problems.

“It’s not doing whatever you feel like. There are constraints. In fact, creativity loves constraints,” Nixon explained. “Creativity loves mess, and we are navigating a hot mess right now. But this is a good thing.”

The way to exercise our creative capacity is through what Dr. Nixon describes as the creative quotient, or CQ, which involves inquiry, improvisation, and intuition. “Inquiry is about how essential it is to start asking new and different questions. So, whether it's about forecasts and projections on our economic future or realizing that we need to team up with people differently, we have to build this capacity for asking new and different questions.”

Streamlining Our Thinking
Questions can lead to a shift in mindset, which tends to lead to shifts in behaviors, which ultimately lead to culture change. After a major shift—like a global pandemic—all three experts agreed that we are on the brink of a new normal like we've never experienced before.

Now is the time to evaluate what part of normal you want to return to and what you want to leave behind, advises Dr. Allan Hamilton, neuroscientist and author. “There are a lot of things you can now say, ‘You know what? I'm letting go of that. I didn't have that in 2020, I don't need it in 2021. I can streamline my thinking.’”

Dr. Hamilton encourages people to separate growth from performance. He defines growth as being the opportunity where people learn and are allowed to make mistakes, but performance as where they have to deliver, and mistakes get in the way.

For Dr. Hamilton, one of the biggest lessons to come out of the COVID-19 experience is how connected we are. “We are starting to understand we need to cultivate connectivity, because it is the bedrock of stability, of trust and love.”

Watch the full presentation for more panel insights.  

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