Once upon a time, it was popular in the corporate world to have a “2020 Vision”. It was a snappy title for glossy brochures laying out long-term strategies. It suggested clarity, foresight and forward thinking.
Sodexo, Siemens, the NHS, the Grand Union Housing Group and the University of Chester all published their own “2020 Vision”. Ironically, the World Health Organisation had one too.
But none foresaw it would end like this – the nation locked down again; large swathes of the economy in tatters; the elderly incarcerated in solitary confinement by diktat of a Conservative Government.
But as the “bah humbug” pathogen takes grip, it’s worth considering, “Was there anything good about 2020?” The truth is there were a few roses among the thorns of a year to forget.
The business community showed agility and pace that couldn’t be imagined in the normal course of corporate life.
A new mindset was set free – one that could think the unthinkable. Half a million people in The City were shifted to home working in an instant.
Services which normally required face to face meetings were beamed into the virtual world by the necessity to keep revenues flowing. Fitness training, beauty treatments, leadership development, medical appointments, wine tastings, schools and universities all went to Wi-Fi.
John Lewis became a virtual consultancy rather than shut up shop. Thousands followed.
Bricks and mortars retailers, restaurants and pubs re-invented themselves as home delivery services. Big pharma created and tested a vaccine in months instead of decades.
Massive field hospitals were constructed in weeks instead of years. A decade of digital transformation was delivered in a summer. How powerful would it be if we could recreate this pace of change and this mindset in corporate Britain as we re-build from the crisis?
There were other positive outcomes. People realised that in some roles they could work from anywhere. Barbados is now offering a special visa for digital nomads to combine beach life and Zoom working.
The life shortening misery of the daily commute shuddered to a halt. For some it will never return. The purgatory of the office Christmas party was avoided too.
Many re-discovered community spirit. Others rediscovered their families. Some got fitter. Others got fatter. Amid the Armageddon of economic disaster, stock markets did quite nicely, thank you. Our pensions remain intact.
Sure, there is the looming risk of Brexit; the black hole of youth unemployment; and rapidly widening inequality questioning the basis of trickle-down economics.
Yes, the bill still needs to be paid for over the next few decades and we still need to vaccinate another 60 million people. But as the turkey draws nigh, it is a time to look on the bright side and conclude – it could be a lot worse.