You’re on mute…

When it comes to summing up 2020 it’s the ubiquitous phrase “you’re on mute” that is both perfect and a little painful.

When it comes to summing up 2020 it’s the ubiquitous phrase “you’re on mute” that is both perfect and a little painful. Unlike other shining examples of corporate-speak like “circle back around”, “set the table”, or “downstream impact”, “you’re on mute” succinctly defines the year like none other. 

The phrase did two things: it defined an unforgettable work year and democratized corporate hierarchies. When Jeff Bezos and other technology leaders appeared remotely before congress in July, Bezos attempted to answer a question only to be reminded that he was still on mute leading CNN to exclaim “Tech titans, they’re just like us!”. During the 4+ hours that Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook faced questions from congress they suffered video glitches, audio hiccups and on-screen faux pas like bad lighting, snacking and not unmuting. So yes, in that way they’re just like us. During a year that saw unprecedented changes to the way we work and live some changes will stick, here are my thoughts on what should stay:

  1. Remote working. The quick pivot by companies like Zoom to provide great experiences using video conferencing services, solidified the notion that both a long commute and office space overhead are a thing of the past. 
  2. Agile thinking and rapid adaptation. Companies who didn’t adjust to sudden changes caused by Covid-19 restrictions were left in the cold. Think of the way Air BnB responded. To call the company battle weary is an understatement, they laid off a quarter of their workforce and experienced a drop in valuation from $31B to $18B as global travel all but stopped. They responded by reducing marketing spend, introducing a new designation for their properties called Enhanced Clean and understood that people still wanted to travel, just not get on planes to do so. Air BnB went public in Dec, 2020 and valuation is continuing to increase.
  3. Out-of-school learning. Twenty-first century learning absolutely needs technology and internet access, and a more diverse way of learning. Many parents were forced to work with school districts to get Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots in 2020 and some school districts were able to do this easily while others struggled. The digital divide was never more glaring, and we’ll need to work on this if we are to build an education system that has the capacity to deliver on equity and excellence in education for all, in all learning situations.

2020 saw some profound changes to the way we live and work and I’m still holding out that we’ll wise up about work/life balance around the globe and shift from a 5-day work week to four days!

Happy New Year!

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