The no normal

People are talking about the time it will take to “return to normal.” The bolder ones are looking forward to a “new normal.”

That’s ridiculous.

What we’re facing are probably better-termed “new realities,” but “normal” is defined as “average” or “typical.” After what we’ve been through, do we really need to pursue the average?!

I’m trademarked the phrase Alan Weiss’s No Normal® which is to indicate that we’re not going back in time, not returning to anything, not trying to re-establish what once was.


An epidemic is a disease that permeates a given, localized area. A pandemic is an epidemic that crosses geopolitical boundaries and becomes universal. The disease is endemic when it becomes a part of the daily existence of localized areas.

Covid has become and is becoming endemic.

That means we will live with it just as we live with the flu. There will be inoculations for those who want them to try to prevent illness, and pills for those who contract the virus which will help mitigate the effects when contracted. And then there will be those who choose to do neither, some of whom will overcome it by themselves, some of whom will require hospitalization, and some of whom will die.

And, of course, there is no guarantee that inoculation and/or treatment after becoming ill will always prevent death, either.

So, we have entered the endemic stage and will be living with this disease, and its variants, for the remainder of our lives. If you think that’s unduly pessimistic, I would remind you that influenza is still with us today, as is the common cold, and bronchitis, and measles, and hepatitis.

The attempts to eradicate the disease have been hugely unsuccessful, despite China closing down cities with tens of millions or New Zealand closing down the entire country. Attempts to reduce the transmission and lessen the degree of illness have been more successful using vaccines, social distancing, and masks, though I think that latter two are largely symbolic.

It’s also apparent that everyone who desires vaccination has been vaccinated and will probably also receive booster shots once qualified. Those who do not want the vaccine are not likely to change their minds at this stage They will probably be subject to additional requirements, such as proof of a negative test or masks or even denied attendance at certain public events. I make no value judgment, I’m simply stating was is probable in my observation.

Lessons of the three dynamics

When I talk of “no-normal” and “new realties” I refer to the fact that there are three dynamics which we’ve learned over the past two years.

Retain what makes sense: We can’t eliminate sports, entertainment, family gatherings, business meetings, recreation, vacations, and so forth. We can’t virtually swim in the ocean. We are social people and we cannot isolate for long periods without incurring excessive stress. We’ve seen this stress manifest in street protests and flouting of government rules. We need to accommodate our basic human, civic, and social needs.

Change to what we’ve seen work: The virtual meeting is highly effective. You can’t virtually swim in the ocean but you can certainly meet virtually with suppliers, customers, colleagues, and so forth. The age of the professional association that provides value with 12 monthly magazines and a huge annual conference is over. We’ve learned that there’s no need for that expense and painful travel. (I believe that most conventions are simply excuses for people to come together and lie about how well they’re doing.) Associations will have to change their appeal to attract and retain members.

Eliminate what doesn’t work: Online schooling has been a disaster. An entire year or more of school has been wasted, and “social promotion” has advanced students to the next level but hasn’t compensated for the level they’ve really missed. We need to get kids safely into schools where they can actually learn and be supported. (By the way, checking vaccine cards is worthless when you don’t also demand proper identification. Either do it right or don’t do it.)

These are broad and generic examples. You can “drill down” easily. For instance, it’s apparent that even high-end restaurants will continue to offer take-out service, which is actually more profitable than on-site dining (no silver, linen, china, waitstaff, dish washing, etc.). I predict they’ll establish satellite sites so that diners waiting to be seated don’t have to stand with sweaty people in running attire waiting for their take-out!


The learning from this rather horrible experience over the recent past shouldn’t be overlooked or under-appreciated, because if we can’t learn then the damage is doubly troubling. I’d suggest we need to carefully consider, in addition to the three dynamics above, for our businesses and ourselves:

  • Scientific decisions shouldn’t be politically tainted. The same applies to strategic business decisions.
  • Information must be validated and open to challenge. Confirmation bias (listening only to those who agree with you) undermines learning and is the greatest weakness of relying on social media for news. Executives can’t afford to listen only to subordinates.
  • People with whom we disagree are neither inferior nor morally bankrupt. They simply have a different opinion. “Facts” in volatile times are not automatically incontrovertible. Listen to your customers.
  • We shouldn’t generalize isolated negatives. A one-in-a-million chance of an embolism from a vaccination does not mean you’re likely to have one (any more than you’re likely to be struck by lightning). Understand that the customer should be listened to but is not always right.
  • Unfortunately, we cannot eradicate diseases such as this, and trying to save every life possible at the cost of tens of thousands of businesses collapsing and millions of life savings depleted is simply not an intelligent approach. We cannot afford business deaths any more than we can afford individual deaths.
  • The people and businesses who did the best, who even prospered the most, were those with cash reserves. It serves us all well to build up such reserves for the future.
  • We shouldn’t fear disruption and volatility. In fact, they can be assertive “weapons” which we use to help us retain control, exert power, and even dominate markets. There is nothing sinister about “stirring up” markets.


The old admonition is that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it. There will be more microbes, more disruption, more unanticipated turmoil. We can’t anticipate the content, perhaps, but we can create better and better processes to deal with these in the future. Cash reserves are one example, but so are better medical distribution, improved policies for vaccine requirements, superior choices for alternatives in education, and so forth.

If you think we’ve been through transformation in the past couple of years, let me share a prediction I have with you. Some day before too long, we will discover buried in the earth, or landing from a meteor, an alien object of intelligent and purposeful design.

What do you think will happen then?

Alan Weiss, PhD: This column is based on his podcasts, newsletters, and speeches about the “no-normal” phenomenon. He’s the author of over 60 books appearing in 15 languages, is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and an inductee into the Speakers Hall of Fame®. He can be reached through

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Alan Weiss
Alan Weiss
Alan Weiss, PhD, serves as the President of Summit Consulting Group, Inc., located at Box 1009, East Greenwich, RI 02818. He can be reached at 401-884-2778 or through his website With a distinguished career, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, a Hall of Fame Member of the National Speakers Association, and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Press Institute. Additionally, he has been recognized as a Top Entrepreneur Coach by The Coach Foundation. Notably, Alan Weiss's podcast, The Uncomfortable Truth®, ranks in the top 2.5% globally.

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