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New Normal or New Ballgame?

BY mikeklein

I'm sure it won't surprise you that I spend quite a bit of time on LinkedIn. 

And on the pages of LinkedIn, I see a powerful discussion brewing among communication professionals: is our role to facilitate the journey to "the new normal" of organizational life - or - to lead the charge into "a new ballgame" where communication emerges at the core of the organization's renewed experience.

Given the structural nature of the COVID world: social distancing, remote working, tight economics, restricted travel and sharp changes in the workforce, the "New Normal" and the "New Ballgame" might look similar in practice.

But the contexts are sharply and fundamentally different.

At the core is whether we are having to try to make "the best of a bad situation" or if we seeking to make "the most of an historic opportunity." 

Bubbling below the core is the question of our fundamental role.

Are communicators a support function existing to deliver the preferences of management while minimizing disruption?

Or are communication professionals finally becoming critical players - at a time when  platforms and practices are becoming differentiators internally and externally? 

Are we simple orchestrators of activities and suppliers of content?

Or do we have a fundamental role in shaping the organizational context and environment?

All of the answers to these questions are correct - to a certain degree. But which should we choose to be?

I'm all-in for the New Ballgame. 

I see this as our moment to seize the initiative in an environment where strategic communication can shape organizations, offerings and experiences - indeed, to shape enterprises themselves.

I also know that we have the tools and resources in our community to deliver the required level of excellence if we win the argument and have to immediately execute. Either by selecting the best possible tools for the challenge at hand - or, if we have to - by making the most of the tools that are made available to us.

Does that mean we have to die on the hill if we lose the argument or are blocked from the conversation in the first place?

No. We just need to rise to a slightly different challenge - to meet the client/boss's short term requirements in a way that doesn't slam the door on their best mid and long term outcomes. 

We only win when our clients win.

We are not a self-sufficient tribe of artists and advocates. 

But neither are we mere support staff.

Moving up the value chain will require us to be more ambitious than conscientious - but conscientiousness might be the ticket that gets us into the New Ballgame.

The New Ballgame will also require much better scorekeeping - we need to make sure that what gets measured lines up with what organizations want and need to achieve, as opposed to what makes them feel comfortable (h/t to those pushing â€œalignment” over “engagement.”)

At any rate, I'm putting my money where my mouth is - doubling down on building a remote consulting practice by moving with my family to my wife's home town of Reykjavik, Iceland. 

This is a time of great difficulty in the world.

We can either try to adjust to it, or we can overcome it. 

Take orders? Or lead the charge.

It's time for ambition. It's time for a New Ballgame.

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms,  an internal communication consultancy based in Northern Europe.  Mike is concurrently Senior Advisor for Strategic Services with Smarp and is a Past Chair of IABC's Europe-Middle East North Africa.  An MBA graduate of London Business School, Mike was an occasional goalkeeper for the School’s Handball team in his school days.


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