Wasserman - opinion - 30 April 2020

Our strange yet familiar new world

I’m halfway through my fourth full week of social distancing (and a lot of social quiztancing) and have managed to stay healthy and busy, so far at least.

It’s a strange, stripped-back new world and we’re all adapting – not least by letting our minds run free. One observation I’ve had is that while so much has changed, a lot is still the same – some of what was true before the virus is just as true now, just in a different guise:

1. Technology continues to connect us in new and innovative ways, creating new experiences and opportunities.

Can you imagine if we’d all been in lockdown ten years ago, with grainy webcams and hardly any streaming services?

Tech has, in many ways, saved the day and not least in sport. Beyond the rise of Zoom meetings and the Virtual Grand National, I’ve been impressed by IRONMAN’s new virtual triathlon race series has created a new platform for pros and amateurs alike to compete from home with new functionality. It has allowed them to add new sponsors and it looks like a platform that will endure long afterlife returns to normal.

2. Despite all the new digital platforms, the value of live experiences endures.

All the new platforms – Houseparty, Netflix Party, etc. – are trying to plug a gap but clearly can’t replicate the ‘real’ thing. Whether matchday, concerts, cinemas, or pub quizzes, there is still something special about being there in person, with other people, living it together. We’re social creatures and we need that interaction.

Immersion, interaction, and human connections still create much stronger and deeper connections. So if the sports, music, and events industries can endure this test in the short term, there’s no question that the appetite for ‘real-life’ interaction will be back with a vengeance.

3. Relationships are key to success.

Understanding how a person or organisation is affected by new development will help to spot future opportunities. Effectively communicating and then tapping into collective brainpower is key to exploiting those opportunities creatively. And the trust and adaptability necessary to execute determine success.

Disruption and pressure always test relationships-but can create the biggest outcomes. So now more than ever, stronger relationships will deliver better results.

So what?

None of these observations is revolutionary, but to me, that’s the interesting bit. To use a sporting metaphor, we’re playing a new game on a new pitch, but most of the rules of the game aren’t so different.

I read a JFK quote yesterday that seems appropriate: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”

After the last decade’s financial crisis, a whole range of great new ideas grew, so I’m hoping the same will happen for us now. We have the opportunity, and we have creative and generous people at the other end of our webcams. Let’s use them.

Tom Glover is Associate Director at Wasserman and contactable at Tglover@teamwass.com