Have you got what it takes to be a phoenix in the new, never normal?


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Back in February, I had the pleasure of talking to Mark Curtis, Chief Client Officer at Fjord and Head of Innovation for Accenture Interactive about their recently published Trends 2020 report.

The trends, crowdsourced from their designers around the world, aim to uncover stuff that they believe will affect the way we think about products and services over the next 2 to 3 years and how businesses can best traverse those changes.

Here’s a synopsis of the trends:

  • Many faces of growth highlights the idea that many corporate transformations will soon switch their focus from digital to purpose as more and more people demand more from companies than just financial success.
  • Money changers explores our changing experience of what money is, what it can do and how that is opening up a whole host of opportunities for new products and services.
  • Walking barcodes discusses how the combination of the growth of facial and body language recognition technology and 5G will enable the creation of new physical and personalized experiences.
  • Liquid people looks at how people are increasingly defining their identity around what is important to them, how that is affecting consumption patterns and behaviors and what that means for organizations.
  • Designing intelligence is all about the possibility of combining human and artificial intelligence in the workplace to enhance the human experience.
  • Digital doubles points to people taking control of their data and how that is allowing them to create digital doubles that act as gatekeepers, actors and helpers in their digital lives.
  • Life-centered design describes the rising need to not just design for users, consumers or humans but for all life and for the entire planet.

Now, a lot has happened and changed over the last few months so to get a view on how these trends may have been changed or may have been affected by events I spoke with Curtis’ colleague, Olof Schybergson, Chief Experience Officer at Accenture Interactive, a few weeks ago for a chat about the trends, how they are changing and what has stood out for him over the last few months.

On the trends, Schybergson told me that they believe that many of the trends are still valid and, in fact, most of them have accelerated, particularly in the area of purpose.

This is confusing many companies, as many are still hoping that things will go back to the way they were prior to the pandemic. However, Schybergson believes that this is a mistake and warns that “what we see is that the pandemic is actually shifting behavior …..the way people work, the way people socialize, the way people shop, the way people get services and so on. We will see some readjustment over time, but things are not going back to the way they were.”

He goes on to say that we are now entering a period that they are calling ‘a New, Never Normal’.

What that means is that while the threat of the pandemic may recede in time, the economic, industrial and technology disruption that we have experienced is not going away any time soon. In fact, the rate of disruption is increasing and has been accelerated by the pandemic.

That is causing some major pains for many organizations and is resulting in a widening gap between those that are leaders and those that are laggards with many scrambling to get their act together so as not to get caught in the laggard category.

If they don’t, then there could be dire consequences. Schybergson told me that at Accenture Interactive, they see four different categories of organization that will emerge from this period.

  1. The first are those organizations that are really quite badly exposed to the massive changes that are going on around us, are stuck where they are and, therefore, they will not survive and will end up in ashes.
  2. The second are taking the challenge seriously and are accelerating their investments in the areas of digital, customer centricity and purpose. This Schybergson believes will give them the best chance of rising like a Phoenix out of the ashes.
  3. The third group they call the disturber group. Now, while this group may only represent a small percentage of the total number of firms, given that they are digital-first and customer-obsessed, they are extremely well-positioned to thrive through the coming period. Great examples would be the Amazons, the Peletons and the Zooms of this world.
  4. Finally, there will be the companies and brands that are born into and out of this new, never normal period.

So, it seems the choice is clear for more established and traditional firms. Make the investments that are required or get ready for the fire.

However, the last word goes to Schybergson, who warns that investment alone will not be enough and that to succeed and thrive in the future organizations will also need to embrace a customer-obsessed mindset. This is easier said than done and could be, in fact, the hardest challenge of all for many.

This post was originally published on Forbes.com.

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


  1. Some interesting thoughts here Adrian, and agree with several of them, including digital technologies will become more important and that brands need to show their human side.

    Where I might slightly (?) disagree is that once this is all over we will go back to a completely “new normal.” People miss real human interaction right now that Zoom or other technologies will never be able to replace experiences like going to a restaurant, concert, and networking events.

    Several of the changes mentioned by Schybergson in this post were happening already, but COVID certainly accelerated it. Bottom line, I think consumers and businesses are going to want to be out in the real world again, have real experiences, instead of continuing to be cooped up.

  2. Adrian, a very interesting read. I agree with what Schybergson has to say and especially about embracing the customer obsessed mindset. This is why companies need to drop the “one and done” philosophy and stay with areas such as being purpose driven, employee engagement, journey mapping, etc. as if they are living efforts. This will allow them to continually re-examine where they are and take the appropriate corrective action. Customer obsession must be a genetic part of the culture.

  3. Pandemic has changed everything and made, as in any crisis, new ideas emerged and innovations that normally took long time, but now that time has been reduced simply due to the great need to adjust to the new reality faster. In other words, there has been a focus on quickly solving the urgent needs of people given the need imposed by the pandemic, such as remote working, online shopping and omnichannel communication.
    In my opinion, there is still a lack of innovations focused on the customer and of course on customer service. The point is, how to cover the entire population, or a large part of it. I mean, not just digital natives are the focus, but older adults as well. It requires teaching them to use the new technology and, more importantly, that they trust it. The world is getting old.
    Making the old technology coexist with the new has been a problem for entrepreneurs, but it has been a source of life for technology startups. It is not easy when orders grow exponentially and the website is not ready, or when I do not have vehicles and people who can be on time with the delivery. Managing data efficiently and take advantage of it through data analytics or work from home with the internet that the usual provider gives me, but now everyone accessing at the same time. Managing data efficiently and take advantage of it through data analytics or work from home with the internet that the usual provider gives me, but now everyone accessing at the same time, are issues that should be considered as well as clients and SME must be considered in the problem solution.
    The processes and operations have changed and the solution without a doubt is the accelerated digital transformation that is underway.
    On the other hand, what will happen to the physical spaces that will no longer be used in offices? Those are spaces that can be used in another way without having to dispose of them completely.
    We have learned and still are learning from pandemic from it, and the new path is indicated, and the starting point teaches us how to face the challenge.

  4. A culture of customer obsession and active incorporation of systems and processes supporting the concept of purpose will be among the key, lasting enterprise performance changes coming out of the pandemic. Many of the other trends identified in the post will be fairly tangential contributors to these two key elements, though several are building in importance.

    Would add that the skills and techniques which make up what we identify as customer science will become a more mainstream, and emphasized, component of the new normal.

  5. @GregoryRose Thank you for your comment. I too am looking forward to a time where face to face experiences become part of the norm again. I’m particularly looking forward to going to music gigs again.

    @DennisGershowitz I couldn’t agree more that customer obsession needs to become an integral part of what and how we do things.

    @JoséMiguelPérez Great point and question about what we will do with much of the vacated office space. That presents both a challenge and real opportunity.

    @MichaelLowenstein Thank you for your contribution. Can I ask which of the other trends do you see as growing in importance over time?

  6. Adrian – The intersection of digital/AI, stakeholder-centric enterprise culture, and human involvement (the “designing intelligence” trend) will be, based on everything I’ve read, where there is increasing emphasis and importance. And, this applies to design of both customer experience and employee experience in the new normal. One of my recent CustomerThink posts addressed this: https://customerthink.com/digital-transformation-isnt-either-or-in-reality-its-and/


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