Learnings from Corona

How much has Corona changed your life? Maybe there are people whose everyday life has not been radically changed by the crisis. However, you probably belong to that group whose life today looks significantly different than it did a few months ago.

Hardly any of us can remember situations in which we were forced to change our behavior as much as we are now. The pandemic has many faces and every day we recognize new aspects – terrible and frightening, but also positive, creative aspects that open new possibilities. These start with seemingly small things.

Think back a few months

How often have you thought that you would like to do without the usual handshake as a greeting ritual? But the desire to show respect to the other person or cultural rules and politeness have prevented you from skipping the handshake. And suddenly it happened: Within a few days, shaking hands was almost completely dispensed – and besides, it was exciting to see how many creative alternatives were used in a very short time. There are usually “good reasons” to maintain existing behavior patterns. Often, they are well-practiced, explicit or implicit rules of the game – whether in society in general or in companies or in the private sphere. The same applies to shared, often not even conscious basic assumptions. For example, that real closeness or good cooperation is only possible when you are together in the same room. Such rules of the game, rituals, basic assumptions are important because they provide orientation in behavior and promote efficiency – we don’t have to make out and “negotiate” everything anew every time. But on the other hand, they are also strong motives for maintaining behavior patterns or pose an obstacle to trying something new.

The good in the bad

But the current crisis is forcing us to rethink and do things in a new way, not only in changing our greeting rituals, but also in many other areas. This begins, for example, with a workout in your own living room and goes deep into your professional everyday life. I never thought that a fitness video would drive me to torment myself even a little more than I normally do in the gym – guided by trainers, together with others in a room. I also wouldn’t have expected that so much of working and learning together would now happen in the home office. Suddenly meetings, workshops and trainings are possible virtually. But we not only see that Corona is a massive driver for virtual work, agile working methods or the application of agile principles also help to better deal with the daily uncertainty. These are all topics that have been on the “to-do list” in many organizations for years – and stayed there.

How does behavior change work?

Social distancing and the accompanying government measures have brought about this radical change of pattern. Nevertheless, it is worth taking a closer look at this. Why does behavioral change work so quickly and surprisingly well? Many perceive it for themselves: Behavioral change requires not only an “announcement from above” but also other ingredients:

  • A good reason, an easily understandable and clear “why”. The explanation and the background for the measures taken must be obvious to (almost) everyone.
  • Role models who exemplify the new behavior, authentic and consistent. Be it the heroes of everyday life who fight every day, be it a 80 year old British lady to be vaccinated with the new and extremely fast developed vaccine or be it Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shows how he puts himself in isolation, as other people of public interest show time and again.
  • Quickly trying out which behavior is appropriate to deal with the situation well: For example, communicating with each other more frequently, more briefly, more focused, or quickly seeking small, uncomplicated solutions to new problems – instead of thinking for a long time about why things couldn’t work out, what else would be necessary to achieve a perfect procedure, and what else would need to be agreed and clarified beforehand.
  • Support and learning to master the new: Be it online tutorials that help to use the software, camera and headset that has already been installed for some time, or tips from the creation of virtual meetings to “gardening at home”. Friends, colleagues, and family also support and help, and books have a renaissance.
  • An open attitude and courage – in addition to a healthy dose of respect for the virus and its consequences: Not to bury one’s head in the sand, but to be open to the changed situation and the opportunities it presents. New examples of this can be found every day, whether it be cosmetics manufacturers who are rapidly switching to disinfectant production or designers who produce and sell protective masks.

“The New Normal”

The above-mentioned aspects promote pattern change and behavioral change, but also in “normal” situations. How can you succeed in packing your good reasons into a convincing story and make the new behavior strongly visible through role models? The only question that remains is what supports you in anchoring the new behavior. First – and unfortunately, this is likely to be the case now – it is important to practice and maintain the new behaviors for a while. This increases the probability that it will work later. But this is also important: Ideally, together with other people – family, friends, colleagues – reflect on what would be worth retaining and what could be helpful to do so. Maybe we are dealing with changed conditions and rules of the game, maybe it is also a promise to draw attention to each other in an appreciative way when deviating and to demand the desired behavior.

“We are all learning. Let us help and support each other.”