The current climate of the working world is very different from what it was as little as a year ago. Businesses – most of them - have taken a beating and are being forced to re-examine and redesign everything from sales strategies to hiring policies, structures, and more. In the midst of all this, when there is a frantic overhaul of ways of working and doing business, many might wonder if creativity and soft skills are still relevant and important. As a general rule, we tend to view creativity as something that might be nice to try, if you have extra time. A sort of luxury, really; something that every trainer loves to talk about at the beginning of the month; something every sales manager asks one to forget as the month end closing approaches.
However, there has never been a time when creativity and soft skills have been such an urgent need which can prepare you to respond effectively to the New Normal and the post pandemic world. Every young management graduate, entering the working world from now until the foreseeable future; every young manager looking for the next rung of the corporate ladder; every job hopper looking for the next move; all of them will have one thing in common. There are going to be some completely new and often unforeseen and unprecedented challenges, tough decisions, and possibly difficult prospects to negotiate. While grappling with the immediate changes wrought by the lockdowns around the world, each professional must also be preparing to function and excel in a post-lockdown, post pandemic world, where economists are predicting sea changes and tough financial times to be dealt with.
Since a return to a pre pandemic normal world is unlikely at best, we need to get used to thinking differently to deal with a changed situation. Creativity and soft skills, more than ever before, will set you apart from the rest of the crowd. The ones who are able to come up with sensible and practical strategies will be able to maximise their potential and get ahead. And that vital boost to your capability can only come from thinking creatively. We need to acknowledge that there has been a massive disruption to our way of life; and treat that as an opportunity to shine. The world is a different place today, and you need to think differently to face up to new challenges.
The pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing needs, have all transformed business today in ways that we might never have imagined or predicted. Business is being transacted and services rendered in virtual offices and online modes made possible by web technology. And for many businesses, like major chunks of the IT sector, this model works so well that companies are realising that going back to a physical office may not be in their best interests. Going back to the previous model of the office, is likely to be extremely challenging in the changed circumstances. Until this situation is well and truly over, companies will have to manage social distancing, apportion working space properly, handle safety in food, pay extra attention to restroom maintenance, and deal with judicious and safe use of social space. The pre pandemic trend was towards more and more open plan layouts, the idea was to bring people together and eliminate mental walls. However, these set ups are now no longer fit for offices. The redesign costs, and the simple costs of running physical offices at 50% capacity is going to be more than many companies can, or are willing to, handle.
Marketing and sales have changed dramatically too. To be successful in this atmosphere, we have to innovate, create new ways to meet customers, make sales, and develop relationships. The soft skills required for a video meeting, an online training session, or for closing a deal on the net are far different from the ones we have so far used in face to face scenarios. There is an upside to the changes though... to lockdowns and work from home regimes. These days, it seems like everyone has more mental bandwidth. With the absence of the draining daily commute, the white noise of the office space, distractions, calls, and people walking in and out, most of us now have better mental space to work on our intuitions, generate new ideas and follow up on inspirations. This is the best time for everyone to exercise their creativity and get used to new ways of thinking and new modes of doing. Innovate and ideate in this transformed workplace, get creative and try out new ideas! This is the time to reinvent yourself!
Written by: Prof. Arunima Das, Faculty – Business Communication, ISB&M, Kolkata