As the CoBS editorial team prepares for a welcome summer break, we’d like to say a very big and warmhearted thank you for your loyalty and interest in CoBS Insights over this academic year – our journey together. We look forward to meeting up again towards the end of August for another year’s worth of articles, insights, magazines and more! Our Journey.
We have an ambitious editorial schedule ahead. We hope to offer you, our readers and site visitors from over 31 countries worldwide, not only the usual bouquet of articles, but also online masterclasses, a book series and condensed learning capsules that will provide you with an at-a-glance picture into a research theme, transferred to your own professional/life context and giving you tips on putting it all into practice.
The usual becomes very unusual – and unsettling
Back at the start of the academic year, September 2019, no one could have imagined the incredible upheavals we were all to live through at the turn of 2020. I remember the daily charts and the way the continents filled westwards with ever-deepening shades of red. As if in some Hollywood blockbuster – the tidal wave scene – there was a moment in which the world’s emotions stood still, struggling to find sense in it all: perplexity, denial, bravado, dread, fatalism, incomprehension, annoyance, shock. Before realisation set in and we hunkered down as best we could.
The CoBS is an alliance that stretches from Asia to Europe to the Americas. And thanks to this we were able to talk to our colleagues daily, exchange advice and experience and literally witness in real time the movement of the pandemic across the continents. And meanwhile the world has gone on – but in a different way. Our Journey.
All change – for the time being – and maybe again
For the first time in modern history, in many countries whole economic systems ground to a halt with only emergency services and vital industries functioning to ensure the well-being of people and keep the system going as best as it could. Telecommuting took over. Some left the city for the countryside. Some returned home. Some lost loved ones. And loved ones were separated, both near and far – and some still are. Our Journey.
That great gift we humans can show – humanity and solidarity – once again saved the day and gave hope. From the neighbour next door, to our old folk, parents having to deal with the double workload of office hours and looking after their children, to healthcare workers, truck drivers and the people who thankfully ensure our weekly waste gets cleared, to countries next door and even further afield.
In many cases, a smile and a thumbs up brought sunshine and solidarity. For a short while the Planet breathed freer than she has been able to breathe since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, 300 years ago. Our fellow creatures, our wildlife, stepped back into territory that had always been theirs. And speaking to friends and colleagues since lockdown, their bee hives, vegetable gardens and fruit trees have rarely produced such bumper harvests as this year’s. Is there a lesson there somewhere? Perhaps.
Time, history, humans
History is an incredible eye-opener. Not especially the lists of dates we learn off-by-heart in the school room. But going back further into prehistory. When you unearth an object that someone carefully thought about, and from a raw block of flint envisioned what the final tool would look like, and then set to work to craft it with a set of processes and techniques learnt and handed down by their elders – all this from 2 to 500,000 years ago (in a European context) – it fills you with both a feeling of immense humility and numbing realisation.
The realisation is that Humankind is more than slightly short-sighted. You might say that it’s understandable – after all, our lifespan is relatively short. And in that short time in which we shine, eighty to a hundred years if we’re lucky, countless generations throughout time have always believed that theirs knows everything there is to know. That they are at the centre of the universe. That their times have seen greater innovations and increases in knowledge than in any other. And that, in many cases, anything that came before was odd, wrong and shamefully unfashionable. Our Journey.
Innovation is not greater efficiency and comfort at all costs
Water systems invented by civilisations 100 centuries ago and that brought farming to deserts, for example, were invented long before 19th century engineers announced to the world that they had calculated how to do it. Former peoples did it by channelling into earth and rock at a sloping angle of 4 degrees. And they did this without calculators, computers and algebra.
Historians of industry tell us that Henry Ford created the first mass production line. Not true. Back in the 18th century, the potter and entrepreneur Wedgewood and others were already using such production processes. And somewhere around 500,000 years ago, our ancestors used a systematic, standard, repetitive tool production process used by all capable early humans known as the Levallois technique.
Not so long ago, before city dwellers and office workers began to switch on air-conditioning and think it unimaginable to live without it, folks knew how to create natural cool air. They did it by simply orienting buildings according to the sun and wind patterns, building thick walls, shutting out the light sunny side, and opening up windows on the shady side.
How come our modern city planners and industrialists forgot that? And will they, in the future, return to the past for greener, innovative ideas, while tweaking them with new technology for future generations? We can hope so.
A brighter new normal
All in all, it’s the realisation that us humans are very humbly a small grain of sand in time. And a slightly larger speck in the whole system of things that includes other mammals, sea creatures, birds, trees and vegetation that comes in millions of different forms. Small grains but with a big purpose. And such a heavy responsibility.
Meanwhile, we humans have to work, produce and provide the means for ourselves, families and countries to thrive – because that’s the system we have invented. But perhaps this forced return to many basics during times of COVID will also feed us with new thought, if not more responsible innovations.
We all know from this experience that there are some things worth changing for the positive, other things to discard because they caused harm, and other things still to bring back from before our mere century’s worth of vision. Trade – as natural a part of human nature as communicating with others – is necessary and improves our lives. Though we are are now beginning to realise that it can be done differently, cleaner, more effectively, less harmfully, more respectfully. Education, international cooperation and universal healthcare are also areas that the pandemic has highlighted. Either for their lacks and defects, or for their immense value and need for greater support.
How will all this turn out? Well, let’s see. Let’s wait for September and any new insights the CoBS can offer. In the meantime, may your journey continue – safely, happily, and knowledgeably.
Read two signature articles written by CoBS faculty during the crisis:
- The Present and Future of Business: The rise of a New Normal
- Rethinking ‘Redundancy” in English, French, and Spanish.
- View our online masterclass: The New Normal – new dawn or new dusk?
Read two flagship articles written by CoBS faculty during the crisis
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