In some ways I have been dreading writing our latest blog. I knew that I really had no option but to write about the current crisis, but since Graham’s blog on 18 March, so much has changed. In that short time our lives, not just here in Scotland, but globally, have been turned upside down and inside out. In his blog, he explored "emotional contagion"
‘The phenomenon of having one person's emotions and related behaviours directly trigger similar emotions and behaviours in other people'.
He also highlighted the need for tough and tender leadership.
We are all grappling with our new normal of social distancing, self isolation, shielding, lockdown and furloughing. The pace of change has been exponential, but huge credit must be paid to government and all the relevant agencies for designing and implementing a raft of new measures and legislation in such a short space of time.
This made me think about the marketing exercises my team used to carry out to create “personas” when we were designing and developing a new service.
'A user persona is a representation of the goals and behaviour of a hypothesized group of users. They are captured in 1–2-page descriptions that include behavioural patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. Personas are widely used in sales, advertising, marketing and system design'.
What personas would we create for the current COVID-19 crisis? Honing this down and taking my personal situation and that of my friends, family and neighbours as examples, it is clear that it would be virtually impossible to create a hypothesized group, since everyone’s situation is unique to them.
Within my immediate close circle there are some who still need to go to work (NHS, education, police, emergency services), some living alone and feeling isolated and anxious, some getting used to working from home, some separated from children, grandchildren, elderly parents, some simultaneously separated from all three, some with shared parenting roles, some stuck in a house sale chain, some shielding, some self-isolating, and the list goes on.
For me, it has meant separation from my two daughters and grandson as well as friends and wider family. Daily video chats now take the place of regular contact and cuddles. I’ve had a quick learning curve on Zoom for work conference calls. Daily household cleaning has taken on a new dimension, but on the plus side this certainly provides good exercise! I’ve always enjoyed cooking, so am taking time to prepare healthy nutritious meals and look for new recipe ideas. I’m also much more conscious of food waste, and finding creative ways to use up left-overs.
But it’s the little things that seem out of all proportion that really drive the point home. Trying to be sensible and practical, I have packed away unnecessary ornaments/mementos to make sure the house is clutter-free, as germ-free as possible and easy to keep clean. This simple activity unexpectedly landed a big emotional punch. Similarly removing the stairgate was a stark reminder that I won’t have little toddler feet running about here for a while.
It made me think of a scene in the movie “UP” where Mr Fredricksen needs to get the house airborne to rescue Russell. The solution is to jettison his precious furniture and ornaments etc collected over a lifetime. But it has the desired effect. The house soars, and Russell is saved. I am adding more pictures to the baby section on my photo wall.
Over the past couple of weeks I felt a need to reconnect with old friends and former colleagues and have been spending a lot of time on the mobile and landline talking or video calling people. Really talking – not just passing the time of day. This afternoon I had my short daily walk and saw someone I had not seen for 40 years. We dutifully kept out of each other’s way, but smiled and waved across the road.
So back to my personas. There are literally hundreds of thousands of personas being created by this COVID-19 crisis. But these are not hypothetical. These are not fictional. These are real people living their lives in a new normal which currently is in a state of constant flux.
This crisis is a huge wake-up call to the whole world, but just like the zoom-in tool on Google maps, it is allowing us to inspect the very essence of our existence. Who we are. What we care about. What matters.
In his blog, Graham pointed out that this new normal will at some stage just become “normal”. But our lives will never be the same again. Society will never be the same again. This is a time of great crisis but also of great opportunity, and I feel a strong sense that as we move into the coming months and years, collectively we will strive to make the world a better place. We had better. We might not get another chance.
Maybe COVID-19 has created a global hypothesized group, with one common goal.
Lead well, stay well
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why".