Thursday, August 06, 2009
The new normal – what is it?
|Have you heard this phrase recently? Seems to be all the rage and it has caused me to ponder, which current realities will be short lived and which ones will cause fundamental and permanent changes in society, business, government, and thus, our lives? In other words, what is the new normal?
Apparently, the answer depends on whom you ask.
I’ve heard it described as “an end to the excesses and showy consumerism of the past.” A colleague used the phrase when I mentioned I had traded in my Lexus for a Volkswagen earlier this year. According to him, what I had done clearly represented the new normal, defined as less conspicuous consumption, less living beyond our means and more conservation of our natural resources.
On the other side of that coin, I know people who have the means and are now afraid to show it. The new normal for them appears to be playing down their wealth so as not to be vilified or appear politically incorrect by those whose new normal is “less is more.”
And then there are those who believe that the new normal will be bigger government and more reliance on it for basic goods and services. That is good or bad depending on which side of the political/philosophical spectrum you are. Will this mean higher taxes and more regulation? Will it mean everyone has health insurance regardless of personal circumstances?
Some industries are shrinking so fast, caused not just by the economic downturn, but also by other forces such as how we use technology. Will certain industries disappear altogether? What new industries will pop up in their stead?
Will we really spend less and save more in the future, not just because we’re fearful today, but also because it’s the new normal? How will that change our buying habits and therefore the business environment? What will retirement look like in the new normal? What will life be like for our children?
Several things became clear to me as I’ve asked, listened and reflected on this topic. First, while we may each see the same things happening around us, our life experiences and our beliefs influence our interpretations of what they mean. Second, our personal interpretations of these events will then impact our actions. (Do I put my money back in the stock market? Should I lay off more employees? Do I tough it out or cash in? Should I buy now or wait?) Third, the only thing that seems certain is uncertainty. I know there are new opportunities for all of us out there in the landscape of the new normal…I just wish I knew what they were!
I’d love to hear from you…what is your new normal?