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2021 will be... hybrid. See the signs.

Recently Pantone Colour Institute announced that the colour of 2021 will be "the neutral Ultimate Gray and vibrant yellow Illuminating”. What a hybrid solution. It happens rarely, but so does a year like 2020.

According to Oxford dictionary hybrid is an adjective that means of mixed character; composed of different elements. In leadership, fashion, events, work and education - there are plenty of signs at the end of 2020 that hybrid is what we will get in 2021.

Hybrid Education

With on and off new waves of the virus, with further lockdowns and easing of the measures, it is best to prepare for blended education in 2021 - in-class and distant. When talking about education, many people think of children and students in universities, but the truth is that this will affect the learning experience of everyone. Whether it is onboarding for a new job, adult language courses or playing a musical instrument - teachers need to adapt their material to be at least partially taught online, while learners of all ages and occupations need to embrace self-discipline to absorb knowledge, presented in a blended form. What is positive: you can now learn from top universities and top professors at a reasonably lower overall cost from the convenience of your own home.

“Work (from home) - life” balance

For those who have the opportunity to perform their jobs also from home, 2021 will be, at least in the first quarter and possibly first half, a deja vu from 2020. Recently Google has extended its full work from home policy until September 2021 and the plans are to offer 2 days work from home after. Facebook follows suite announcing WFH untill July 2021 and half of its workforce will work from home after that. Tech companies are reportedly leaving the Silicon Valley which will offer other WFH opportunities. The downside: World Health Organisation has recently issued a warning that we could expect a surge in anxieties and mental problems as the pandemic continues to evolve. Scientists recommend to practice gratitude as a coping mechanism and writing down daily three things we are grateful for.

PersonS of the Year and the return of collaborative leadership

Another sign for the duality of the upcoming 2021 was given by the choice of Time magazine for their annual Person of the Year.

Well, surprise, surprise! It is not a person, it is a team - the newly elected President and Vice President of the United States Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden and Harris could in my view symbolise the return of collaborative leadership.

It’s not enough for leaders to spot collaborative opportunities and attract the best talent to them. They must also set the tone by being good collaborators themselves.” - write in 2011 two professors in an HBR article.

Collaboration will be the answer to many of our contemporary problems, the biggest of which is that we now live in a divided world on so many levels, topics and fundaments. 2021 could be the blend to move forward from this deep divide.

Hybrid business models

Even B.C-19 (Before Covid-19) the catch phrase in the business world was already “Transform or die”. The pandemic speeded up processes that were ongoing, but likely would have taken more years to complete. Majority of businesses are going through major shifts in their business models and 2021 will be pivotal moment to define the winners… and the losers. This is why 2021 will be transitional. Hybrid business models - the current and the future - will coexist. That is likely to be costly for the enterprises, as holding up to two infrastructures requires investments in both. But it is the right step to evolve.

Can you ZOOM the Olympics?

With a third wave upon the country of the rising sun, a new poll showed that 30% of Japanese people want Tokyo Olympics 2021 canceled, and 31% believe they should be further postponed. The Olympics is probably one of the few events that you cannot effectively ZOOM. It is not new that the majority of the spectators watch the Olympics from a distance. It's called TV and has been with us since 1927. But you can't compete in tennis, basketball or karate from a distance. The easiest to predict is that events will be held from now on in a hybrid form and once the lockdowns are over, seats will be available both on- and off- line. This presents new opportunities for both participants and event organisers. IT and Events Management people need to become best friends in order to deliver a smooth experience for the participants.

Retro cool is back

The cultural phenomenon of 2020 - this is what CNN recently called the hugely popular Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” about a chess prodigy from the 1960s. The show portrays a young woman triumphing in a historically male field.

The underlying story beyond women empowerment is the “ingenious custom wardrobe” (British Vogue) of the main character Beth Harmon, portrayed by the exquisitely talented and intriguingly beautiful Anya Taylor-Joy. Beth Harmon's style in clothes and hairstyle are already setting trends for 2021. Moreover, Gucci’s new collection is also in a nostalgic retro cool style - their latest line is as if taken out from what they call “an office party in the 80s”.

Ah, the office party? You miss that, don't you? As thoughtful as it is in this situation, online is still no match for a good old office party. Maybe some VR will help, but we will always crave the real deal. History is a good teacher when trying to predict the future so let's see what we can learn from it. In the end of the second decade of the 20th century, about 100 years ago, the world was devastated by the Spanish flu. Millions lost their lives. Brushing off from the dust of this tragedy, remember what came next? The Roaring Twenties came - with their big parties and economic boom.

Image from the movie The Great Gatsby

If you want to recall the magnitude, just watch the parties Leonardo Di Caprio threw in the movie The Great Gatsby. Are we up for 21st century roaring 20s, without the depression of the following 30s? Learning from past mistakes and embracing collaboration and shared responsibility we just might succeed.

Victory Corners, 2020, by Viktoriya V. Blazheva


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