So what’s good About a Recession?

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This economic downturn could be the best of times for you and/or your company. Too much elderberry wine, you think to yourself.  The old girl has packed up her brains in a Fed Ex box and mailed it off to Bora Bora.
But think about it for a minute.  In times when the economic climate is robust, staff is abundant, work is fairly routine, and the main challenge is to accomplish everything that was on your To Do list for the day. Things were going so well that no one ever challenged you to find a better way, to be more efficient, to invent a rounder wheel.

At times it probably felt as if you were on a treadmill, trying desperately to keep up, doing pretty much the same thing day after day, albeit it at an exhilarating pace.  Times were good.  And be honest now – you forgot the prayer of the early 80’s:  “Please God let there be another Oil Boom and I promise not to piss it all away next time.”

You pissed it away, didn’t you?

You bought $5.00 coffees and $18.00 dollar hamburgers.  Paying $600.00 to $800.00 a month for underground parking was a given.  At $125.00 a litre it cost you over a hundred dollars to fill the tank of your new truck, but that was ok because your second car, the Tesla, which only cost $90.000.00 new, ran on electricity so gas wasn’t a concern.

And companies were no better.  They built new buildings, a kitchen on every floor, two monitors at every work station, concierge service for those of sufficient rank, an art collection that put the Glenbow to shame, and a catered lunch for every noon hour meeting.

And now the company has downsized by 25% and you might (if you are lucky) be among that 25%. Why lucky?  Because you are among the best educated cohort on earth and you now have the opportunity to do what you have really always wanted to do.  You can’t tell me that your childhood dream was to process invoices all day long, or deal with unhappy colleagues who complain about the heat, the cold, the lack of free bottled water or their favourite soda flavour.  Your idea of something meaningful to do with your life did not include listening to rumours and gossip, being bullied by a manager straight out of hell, or work in an environment that strongly resembled a day care but without an afternoon nap.

Many people, overcome by financial anxiety, immediately seek to find another position that closely resembles the one they have just left.   Now I suppose if you have spent 25 years of your life learning to be an X, it is understandable that you would look for another position where you could continue to be an X.  But remember Michael Creighton who was a Harvard educated physician who walked away from a medical practice to become a bestselling author.  Google “career shifters” for any number of people who changed their careers – for the better.

And what about those who you who have “survived”?  Are you simply in a survival mode of doing more with less or are you able to take this time to design new and better ways of accomplishing what you have to do?  We can continue to do what we have always done, or we can think in new ways.

There is a story about a building owner who received many complaints from tenants about the slowness of the elevators.  They hired pricy elevator consultants and studied various ways to speed up the elevators, but short of putting in a new bank of elevators, there did not seem to be any way to speed up the existing carriers.  One employee, however, came up with a brilliant solution to the problem of tenant complaints.  He suggested that mirrors be installed around each of the elevators so that instead of focusing on how long it took the elevators to arrive, people could check themselves out, and check out their neighbours thus being less aware of how long it took for the elevators to arrive.  The complaints were dramatically reduced.

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This is your golden opportunity to devise new and better ways of doing your job.  You have a built-in excuse – few resources – people or money, so there is an expectation that things will change.  And when the economy turns around, as it will, then you are perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of your creativity and innovation. It is true that we are now living in an age of uncertainty, but as Eric Fromm said,” Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”

 

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