Posted: 27 May. 2020 10 min. read

Re-thinking our thinking – top three reflections in times of no control

In the past few weeks we have ended up in a pretty scary, unknown new world that we have no control over. We all had to pivot, adapt and try to appreciate the little things in life. Most of us went through different phases of grief; from denial and anger through sadness finally to acceptance. We had to find ways to move forward, through rediscovering hobbies, reflecting, and learning new skills (apparently baking bread has become the thing). 

I personally see the time in a lockdown as a time of a great opportunity. Although, I also experienced a week full of denial, sadness and frustration, mourning after the past, I quickly realised that doing so only provides a temporary and false feeling of regaining control, in times of extreme uncertainty. Here are my top three reflections in times with little control: 

1. Digging back to the ancient stoic philosophy helps to find modern psychological tips and tricks 

“I would not be able to go through as much as he did”, “I do not know she managed to handle it” – whether it is a close friend who just got out of an abusive relationship or a colleague at work who lost their loved one, each of us is familiar with a similar reaction to misfortune of others, whose bravery and strength amazed us. We are always impressed with the ability of others to handle overwhelming events. Yet, we rarely pay attention to how much we are able to handle ourselves.

This period is a great time for us to develop both psychological and emotional resilience - the ability to handle those overwhelming events without being overwhelmed by them. Resilience is not only about noticing and dealing with the struggles in order to survive. It is about inviting to our lives what stoics called the premeditation technique – a time devoted to contemplation on losing things we care about most, which no sane human being would willingly go through.

Stoicism teaches us lessons, which are today translated into several modern psychological techniques and tools, e.g. Resilience Training, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The only thing we have control over are our beliefs and this is the only thing that will provide us with inner freedom and resilience (Epictetus, 2C AD). Delve deeper into stoic philosophy and with anything, read in different places from different authors, you can start with this article. Whether current uncertainty and stress is damaging or valuable depends on how we respond to it. And although we might not fix it for good, we might find ourselves a little bit more comfortable in the never-ending search for a metaphor of existence.

2. Collective trauma that led to a collective behavioural change - finding a perfect balance between physical and virtual

A barking dog, a crying child, a family member walking in the background, or a postman ringing the doorbell - we experienced it all or at least most of it. In the past weeks, we saw our colleagues in their living rooms and our bosses wearing their active wear, giving us access to the privacy (and their human side) that we may not have had access to before. The boundaries between professional life and personal space have blurred and it is up to us and our creativity to differentiate between workspace and life space. 

We collectively learned that the potential of virtual working is huge, and we proved it can work very well. We learned that in a fully remote setting there is no real team, but everyone has an ownership of a specific subset of goals, which is clearer and a little stricter. We also learned that in a remote setting everything needs to be evidence-based to build and sustain trust and strengthen the experience. 

This period is a huge opportunity for us to start rethinking our thinking and start believing that bringing together the best of both worlds, virtual and physical, is a golden means to the future of work. 

3. The Future of Work should be defined through systemic design - with purpose, well-being and sustainability at its core

How can we make remote working more sustainable? How can we change mentality of our employees to work remotely? How can we create the new normal? These are only examples of complex questions that we are all trying to answer, while conceptualising the future of work. However, not many of us know where to start. 

We can approach the unknown through systematic design. Systemic design is a method, most useful when dealing with adaptive challenges and events categorised as complex, ambiguous or unique, where value conflict is common - it is a combination between design thinking and systems thinking. Design thinking itself is a people-centred process that invites emotions, stories and human connection. Systems thinking is then about the dialogue and non-linear relationships.

Taking this approach will enable us to organise data into relationship maps and provide us with a much better overview of how to change the system by influencing the relationships within it, creating a slightly more utopian future we crave. It gives us a good foundation to start the everlasting journey to design for a better tomorrow in the new workplace. Learn more about systematic design and how it can enable these things by looking at the Systematic Design Toolkit here.

My version of “slowing down”

“We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us.” - Epictetus

I’ve touched on rethinking our thinking. But what does this mean? And what does it look like? Instead of getting caught down a rabbit hole of chasing answers we do not have, reflect. Reflect internally, encourage those around you to do it too. Learn resilience, rediscover the future of work, select experiences for ourselves and create opportunities for others that will make this world an empowering and inspiring one. With so many resources at our fingertips, access ones that will bring you personal development. Begin with discovering Resilience Training and once again, reflect.

More about the author

Marta Tomczyk

Marta Tomczyk

Senior Consultant

Marta is a curious innovator, thinker, and doer who is passionate about proposition design and new venture building. She works at the intersection of human-centred innovation, proposition design and acts as a catalyst for corporate innovation and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Deloitte Australia, she worked in digital and innovation at Deloitte Netherlands and across Deloitte EMEA (regional role). Before joining Deloitte she helped opening the biotech & smart services incubation program for early stage start-ups, worked at the early-stage venture capital firm in the New York City, US, and helped executing the intense acceleration program powered by Google for Entrepreneurs in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley.