PSST… We Don’t know what’s coming next.

April 21, 2020 Steve 0 Comments

Normal isn’t coming back. There is no such thing. Never was. No steady state equilibrium.  There is only ongoing disruption and adjustment. 

The economy is always adapting to find better “Patterns of Sustainable Specialization & Trade” (“PSST” by economist Arnold Kling). 

When conditions are relatively stable, we specialize and optimize: 2% efficiency gains here, some tweaks to the product there. Add a bit more leverage and a bit more scale.  USA & Australia had a fairly stable decade of growth & optimisim. Many companies did well by updating last year’s business plan with just two words: “more” and “better”.

In times of massive change, adaptation beats specialization. Your whole business model can grow stale in one quarter.  It’s time for a clean sheet of paper and plans written in pencil: New products, new services, new markets, new ways to serve your customers, new ways to coordinate your teams… rethink your supply chain… reconsider your whole business model. Stop making cars and pillows.  Start making ventilators and masks. Pause overseas business trips and bring aboard a virtual sourcing team (a new startup offers this service: )

Personal Disruption

We each choose our own ways to adapt, both top down and bottom up. 

Starting at the top – Take a fresh look at your priorities: Title, status, family, lifestyle, geographic location, work-life balance…  You may ask yourself, “Am I right? Am I wrong?” And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

If you’re happy with the view from 30,000 feet, you could still make some bottom-up adjustments: 

What are the non-negotiable minimums that you need from your day job? How much money? How much intellectual stimulation? How much meaning and purpose? What tweaks would better “spark joy” to use Marie Kondo’s catchphrase?


I make no predictions for how the markets, economy and global patterns of trade evolve over the next quarter, year or decade.  

I only predict there’s going to be a reshuffle. Many of us will change our definition of success between 2019 and 2022.

Someone will give up a Manhattan penthouse for a rural tiny home. Others will give up lucrative professional careers to lunch startups and NGOs. 

Many will emerge from the CoVid19 lockdown with the knowledge that their families would prefer more quality time together even it means a bit less disposable income. 

And of course there will be new unicorns and billionaires who figured out the “secret sauce” of the updated business environment.

Eventually things will change again… Because there is no normal… We spend our whole careers adjusting to a changing world. Our adjustments cause the world to change even more.  The cycle continues unevenly, often unpredictably, and relentlessly.

It’s better this way. Normal is boring.  Plus stability doesn’t pay very well. 

It’s gonna be a looooong wait…