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Will There Ever Be a “New Normal”?

Brian Buck
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So . . . where’s the “new normal” that everyone’s been talking about? Is it already here? Did I miss it? It certainly isn’t clear what it is or when it’s supposed to get here, and it’s wreaking havoc on businesses trying to find their footing. I feel as if we're chasing a fantasyland, like Narnia. What makes this unknown so challenging is that it’s making it difficult to fully evaluate risk and reward, which means that knowing things like your limit or what you’re willing to agree to in a deal is hazy at best.

Major League Baseball is negotiating with the players’ union on how to play ball this year. The issue is that, back in March (which, in Pandemicland, seems like years ago), both parties agreed to a deal to play ball in 2020. Now that the reality of that deal is upon us, the owners are trying to change the terms, because they didn’t fully understand the financial implications of what they agreed to. Add to that the pressure they’re soon to face in a critical renegotiation of the players’ collective bargaining agreement. In March, the limits seemed clear and a deal was in place. In June, the limits are hazy, the risk seems high, and the rewards are not as abundant. Welcome to the “new normal.”

The same is happening in local government. All across America, cities are debating the defunding of police departments. In response to its social conscience, Minneapolis moved quickly to dismantle their police department. A week later, they’re trying to figure out what that means and have since decided to take a year to think about potential reform and not to disband the current police department. Last week, the need was clear. A week later, the risks seem too great. Welcome to the “new normal.”

The same is happening with public safety. All states have reopened to some degree. Arizona’s stay-at-home orders ended on Saturday, May 16. Almost one month later, the positive test numbers for COVID-19 are increasing and hospitalizations have almost doubled. Arizona is fast becoming the newest coronavirus hotspot. Last month, risk was low and reward was high. A month later, the rewards seem nonexistent. Welcome to the “new normal.”

I would argue that our “new normal” is here. The only certainty we have is that everything could change tomorrow. That’s an uncomfortable place to be. However, as an eternal optimist, I always look for the bright side. For me, the bright side is that change brings with it opportunity.

The biggest opportunity I can see is for us to stop waiting for a magical “new normal” and begin to define what we want that new normal to be. It’s a time when we can imagine a new world. It’s a time when we can test boundaries and find new beginnings. But proceed with caution and recognize that we do not live in a seismically neutral place. Continue to exercise good judgement and be sure to build in contingencies for the inevitable change. And let the examples above demonstrate that what looks good today may not be as appealing tomorrow. 



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Brian Buck
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