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Examining the “New Normal” with the Fervor of a Curious Toddler

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By LaMesha Craft
November 12, 2020

The views expressed do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Intelligence University, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Intelligence Community or the U.S. Government.

This year has required significant pivoting in nearly every aspect of day-to-day life, as well as in the business, medical, educational and economic sectors. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that organizations can identify systems, processes and procedures that have been adopted to bridge the gap between requirements and restrictions.

However, as we close out this year and determine best practices, we should examine the processes that have been adopted and thoroughly examine their long-term sustainability. In other words, the adoption of technology and the adaptation of systems and processes should be re-examined in light of embracing the “new normal.” Before we accept the tools that entities may have had to use, it is paramount that we take the time to tap into our inner three-year-old and ask, “Why?”

Your Inner Three-Year-Old and that Powerful Three Letter Word

If you have a three-year-old (bless your heart), then you can attest that they ask, “Why?” quite a few times a day. Their questions stem from genuine curiosity because they want to learn more about the situation and their environment. I submit that the same holds true for the benefits of asking, “Why?” in our professions.  

That’s Interesting. Tell Me More, Please.

Generally, the question, “Why?” is really another way of saying, “That’s interesting to me, tell me more.” As professionals, we may typically approach the question with the need to answer it from a cause-and-effect perspective. Other times, we may approach the question defensively as we justify a decision, a system or a process. For example, the question, “Why do we do it this way?” may be answered with, “Because that’s how we do it.” But that is not really a good answer (and it almost certainly would not survive first contact with a typical three-year-old). Arguably, a process or procedure was established for a reason. Therefore, like a relentless three-year-old, you should not settle with the first answer.

Instead, like a parent trying to teach their child about the world, we must see the question for what it is. Tapping into your inner, inquisitive three-year-old by asking, “Why?” will shed light on the rationale (or lack thereof) of processes and procedures. Moreover, it could provide greater understanding that will likely improve decisionmaking. This is especially important as we aim to define the new normal that will emerge post-COVID-19.

“Out of Necessity” ≠ “New Normal”

In the case of the pandemic, some organizations (across various sectors) quickly embraced technology that facilitated the completion of functions and processes that would have been significantly degraded (or impossible) without the technology. Examples include: the healthcare and public health sector, where services such as telemedicine, digital healthcare and patient wellness apps were extended; and the public and private business sectors that increased teleworking, virtual meetings and seminars. At the onset of the adoption of technology, it is likely the, “Why?” was self-explanatory—to save time, save lives and save jobs. It is no doubt the reflection of an unprecedented reality. However, I’m suggesting that revisiting the, “Why?” before accepting recent decisions as the “new normal” should be part of the year-in-review assessment.

The reason rests in the reality that implementing technology creates inherent vulnerabilities in device security, data security (how data is stored and transferred), and data privacy (safeguarding information against unauthorized access). Ultimately, the necessity of adoption (at the time) might have outweighed the importance of addressing all security solutions. While this may be more prevalent in some sectors than others, the utilization of technology has had a significant impact during the pandemic.

Examining the Duality of Technology & Assessing the Future

The duality of technology explores the assumption that the adoption of technology results in both positive and negative impacts. As noted earlier, during the pandemic, the adoption of various devices, platforms and applications were based on the anticipated benefits. Let me be clear—the successful emergency adjustments are noteworthy and should be acknowledged. However, it is important to analyze whether or not the potential consequences of continued utilization have been assessed. Two initial questions to ask are:

  • In a post-pandemic environment, why would you continue to use the devices, platforms or applications that were adopted in response to the pandemic?
  • Why and how might devices, platforms or applications impact the management of cybersecurity and privacy risks?

Assessing the future use of technology with the fervor of a curious toddler should be embraced as a necessity to ensure that organizations clearly distinguish unforeseen challenges from known risks that were simply ignored.

Author: LaMesha “MeMe” Craft, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the National Intelligence University and an adjunct professor at Tiffin University. Her research interests include community resilience, disaster risk reduction, leadership, impacts of disruptive technology, alternative futures, and postnormal times. She may be reached at [email protected] or @DrLCraft20

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