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New normal is ‘next normal’

McKinsey and Co, in superb research paper, has described the new normal that will emerge post COVID-19 as the ‘next normal’, and predicts that there is bound to be dramatic restructuring of the economic and social order, severely impacting both the society and the business. The consultancy has also prescribed a 5-stage strategy to take the world from the crisis of today to the next normal post a successful battle with the virus – Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination and Reform.

Without going into how McKinsey envisages operationalizing the strategy, one thing is clear – the next normal will be a paradigm shift in every activity of life. For example, social distancing may well become a norm and work-from-home will be the accepted reality. Supermarkets may become scarce and replaced by online malls and eCommerce establishments. Transportation systems will be restructured, possibly making them more efficient and convenient. Education will be widely online. Banking will see crucial changes (maybe in the very long run, branches may disappear, digital will prevail and physical interaction will be minimal). Better and efficient communication systems will evolve and mobile devices will gain multi-functionality.

We will look at banking and education specifically. Pre-COVID-19 days have seen the banking industry discussing digitization quite aloud but just about 15% of the organizations have become digital in the true sense. Now, after the virus struck, banks are compelled to not just provide customers digital banking conveniences but are forced to offer online working facilities for the employees. Not doing so will see them losing customers and even talent.

Education is another area. When you shift teaching processes online, conveniences – for the students and teachers – are many with no compromise on quality or efficiency.

These 2 sectors have indeed seen the potential of digital transformation and are not going to take a step backward to the older practices. So, COVID-19 that way is a catalyst.

While the havoc the virus created is unprecedented, the future nevertheless may not be that bleak. But this will depend on how governments and society respond to the pandemic and the impact it had on the economies. As McKinsey’s paper says, perhaps COVID-19 may not just be a health crisis staring at humanity, it can as well be an occasion for a much-awaited restructuring of the global economic order. And perhaps the 5 stages that McKinsey outlines could offer world leaders a clear path to begin their journey towards the ‘next normal’.

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