Welcome to the Future.

Welcome to the Future.

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it”.

Arundhati Roy. 24th April 2020. Financial Times. 

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Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we believe it’s time to share B+A’s belief in the poetic, positive choice that author Roy paints. Our vision has always been to create a world of cultural, charitable, profitable enterprise. But now is the time to put it front and centre, and fight for it. At this time of greatest challenge, the pandemic creates urgency to turn this vision into reality with a golden opportunity to find new, better ways to push our world forward. 

Because, we are crashing unceremoniously into a new era. And we’re not going back.

Only weeks into this new era, we have seen the status quo of many global commercial systems and assumptions exposed as perilously fragile. And the response amongst the majority of organisations we encounter has been to hunker down, cut costs and investment down to a bare minimum and wait for the storm to pass and ‘normal’ to return. 

This is the wrong response. 

B+A is a human behaviour business that works with clients to help them shape the way people think and act within and beyond their organisations. Much of what we learnt (and even how we learnt) about the way people think and act ‘Pre-Covid’ is out of date.  Across the world, people have, central to their mindsets, considerations affecting their lives that were inconceivable barely a month ago. We are dealing with new stresses and pressures, coming to terms with new behaviours and tackling new challenges.

We can choose to see these questions as problems. Or we can see them, as Roy does, as opportunities that, in the right hands, could be shaped into a future that is radically better. 

So what do we do such great opportunity? With the mirages of old certainties dispelled? Naturally we want to know what the future looks like. How we do that, we think, is actually quite simple.  

As Ryan Flaherty, Nike’s Senior Performance Director puts it, “the best performing athletes are always exactly where their feet are. Be where your feet are.”  

Ryan’s “where” is “here and now”. So, today, perhaps more than ever, we need to listen, observe and understand the changes in human behaviour by making people, and their current state, our start point. Then we need to track them over time to highlight the overlaps and gaps and spaces in-between. We need to use this new intelligence to react in the moment with varying degrees of certainty. Both out in the world and within our organisations. 

The challenge, however, is that many existing ways of understanding behaviour are no longer fit for purpose. Face-to-face research will not be possible for a very long time, and when it is again, it will still often be expensive and time consuming. Traditional quantitative research methods, too, are slow, complex and not attuned to human nuance. Even more recent digital capture research methods are mostly merely observational and shallow in their synthesis.

Whilst at the same time many current ways of managing teams and bolstering internal culture are also outmoded. They often rely on in-person gatherings, incurring great cost, for activities that are unrelated to where the culture lies – in the work you do. At worst, they short circuit relationship building by jumping too quickly to the ‘solving the problem of the day’, too easily deferring to hierarchy for answers. 

We need ways to find better answers faster to how human behaviour is changing.  Reliable answers that are generated very rapidly, very often and very cost efficiently. We need to do this within the bounds of the altered lifestyles that we are now living, as they evolve, and we need to do this with the empathy for human nuance.  Do this and we can generate greater certainty as to how and where to invest, develop and create for the future.

To this end, B+A has built a suite of tools that will be our contribution to this change. Right now. They harness the digital space, not as a replacement to the real world, but as a medium and environment in itself.

Underpinning them is NOBOA*. A lightning fast, highly intuitive, interoperable quantitative data analysis platform. Using NOBOA we can synthesise massive data sets very quickly and cheaply – enabling multi language analysis that generate clear insights with little or no prior quantitative research training. To complement this and go deeper into behaviour, our virtual workshop methodologies and our digital ethnography tool, SnapShots, enable us to dig in with real, human conversations around the world at a moment’s notice. 

These tools can be used to understand behaviour within your own organisation or out in the world.  They radically lower the barrier to entry and enable very fast, frequent deployment and analysis, whilst preserving the subtlety and emotion of individual points of view. 

There are some organisations, like online-first retailers or streaming services, for which this crisis is an unalloyed opportunity.  For the rest of us, the ones with the best chances of thriving will not just be those that can adapt to new realities and adopt new mindsets but the organisations that act and change right now – slap bang in the midst of the deepest uncertainty and shortest sure horizon. Keep calm and carry on isn’t going to take you there. There’ll be no more ‘business as usual’, so there will be no room for businesses-as-usual. 

Now is the time to embrace new ways to work in this new reality. If you do, you too will contribute to creating a world of cultural, charitable, profitable enterprise, powered by more relevant, legitimate and sustainable practices. Like Arundhati Roy, this is the world that not only we want to see, but a world we believe is within reach.

We urge you to join us to make it so. 

Ben Gallagher, Andrew Missingham & Team B+A

*It gets its name from our acronym for the definition of an insight: Non-Obvious Before, Obvious After”