Finding a more human approach to the Never Normal

We are finding ourselves at a point in time where we need to reinvent our systems and our organizations to get out of this current deeply human crisis, both in business and in society.

Peter Harfoush

In preparation of writing my next book - about the Never Normal - I’ve been doing quite some research. And among the many books I’ve devoured over the past months, I was truly inspired by "Hustle and Float - Reclaim Your Creativity and Thrive in a World Obsessed with Work", by Digital Anthropologist, and New York Times Best-Selling Author Rahaf Harfoush, one of the most interesting authors on the topic of workplace dynamics. Her magnificent book focusses on our current creativity and productivity challenges. And she is really set against the current hustle culture, of which Gary Vaynerchuck - Gary Vee for friends and fans – and Elon Musk probably are the most visible figureheads.

At first glance, the idea behind the hustle culture may seem pretty straightforward and, for many, even positive: we need to live up to our full potential, always push ourselves further, always move forward and, you know, just “go, go, go”. But today, we find ourselves in a situation where many people are finding themselves challenged by that pressurizing state of mind. Where the human limits have been reached. Where there is a burnout epidemic. Where there is a sense of anxiety in the workplace. LinkedIn, for example, recently gave every single one of its employees one week extra just to avoid burnout because they were truly sensing that something was amiss.

A not so simple if/then statement

In her book, Harfoush refers back to the classic American dream which boils down to a simple if/then statement: “if you work hard, then you can achieve your full potential”. Pretty straightforward, right? But, as with many things, there's a shadow side. Because if you haven't actually reached your full potential, you probably just haven't worked hard enough.

Today, there is a fundamental issue in society and business where that shadow of the American dream is creating an unhealthy compulsion for productivity. The flip side is that, in parallel, we are also moving into an age of anti-ambition. Over here we had the quiet quitting trend. In China, there’s the lying flat syndrome. We see more and more employees, and citizens, that are challenging the current system. And we will need to organize ourselves in a different way.

Many seem to believe that technology might offer answers here. And even though I am a big believer in the power of technology, I also think that blindly trusting it might not be the right solution. Human relations, collaborating in the office, real life events and everything face to face will keep being crucial for both our wellbeing and our evolution.

Reinventing our systems

The fact is that we are finding ourselves at a point in time where we need to reinvent our systems and our organizations. We will need to build transparency and transparency builds trust and trust builds alignment and alignment builds opportunities and success. That’s how we will get out of this deeply human crisis, both in business and in society.

The leaders of tomorrow are going to have to play a huge role here, in blending that human aspect, that heart with a company's resilience and innovation and even efficiency. That’s why I also believe that reinventing the system of our education will be of the essence. Because we’re definitely not going to cut it with measures like returning to ‘pen and paper’ exams to prevent students from using ChatGPT to write essays (I kid you not). We’ll need to redesign education to integrate the skillset, mindset and heartset needed to turn the Never Normal into something truly spectacular: not a future to be scared of, but a context full of opportunities to create a better world. 

About that latter: my company nexxworks is organizing a Youth Tour in July - guided by me - so that parents can take their teens and young adult children with them to some of the most technologically and organizationally advanced companies in London. The aim is to show them the possibilities of a new world of work and business and inspire them to help shape companies that will have a better fit with our current reality. You can request the tour program here.