5 of the Biggest Change-Making Ideas from 2020

  • January 14, 2021

When 2020 began, most people had high hopes for how the year would play out. As the year continued, we saw ourselves living through major historical events such as the global COVID pandemic, the all-important 2020 election, and the resurgence of protests for the movement for Black Lives.

Many described the year as "unprecedented" - anyone else tired of hearing that word too? However, through every unprecedented trial, it illuminated the path towards reconstructing our chaotic world into a society that works for everyone. So what did we learn from the most eventful year in modern history? Let's break down the five biggest ideas that came from 2020.

1.  We can't have diversity, equity, and inclusion program without justice

It's impossible to talk about how much America has to grow without understanding how white supremacy continues to influence and impact our organizations - and what we need to do to dismantle it. As we battle with the many forms of racism and bigotry that incite violence across the country, we must remember that it is not enough to say, "I'm not racist." We have to be active in our work against racism every single day. Many organizations made statements supporting the Movement for Black Lives. It was evident that employees and consumers could see through empty brand statements that didn’t follow through with real action. No matter where you are in your learning journey toward dismantling white supremacy, we all have to look deep within ourselves to make that transformation possible. Without the commitment to action, statements will continue to be empty words. With the help of these five books on inclusion, you can move your anti-racist and diversity, equity, and inclusion work into more impactful, meaningful change.

2.  We need to retool our leadership styles for the new world of work

While we were learning how to fight racism together, we also had to learn how to work apart. Remote working changed how organizations operate and allowed us to reevaluate how we can best work together - even if we're not actually together.  

For leaders, this also offers the opportunity to adjust your leadership style for the changing world. Maybe you’re learning how to be a better Long-Distance Leader while you and your organization work from home. There are so many different leadership styles - like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's focus on transformational leadership or one of the many tactics taught by leaders at every level of our Leadership for a Changing World Summit. No matter what leadership style you’re exploring, remember that the best way to coach others through changing times is to discover what they need to feel psychologically safe.

3.  We can weather crisis together

If 2020 taught us anything (and it seemed to teach us everything), it's the importance of being prepared for crisis. The coronavirus pandemic shed light on how critical uplifting essential workers is while illuminating the opportunities to revamp our day-to-day work operations and duties. The organizations that pivoted quickly to the digital world demonstrated they knew how to support their teams and commit to continuous learning. Many organizational leaders incorporated one or more of these five leadership styles, all of which center on the dignity and humanity of their teams, highlighted growth opportunities, and created a vision for people to look forward to in the middle of the storm. Even when things seem chaotic, it’s important to use creative problem solving to tackle issues one at a time.

4.  We are all...really burned out

Even the most motivated advocates for inclusion can suffer from burnout, which is a state of cumulative stress brought on by severe exhaustion. While burnout is a big enough issue for the World Health Organization (WHO) to officially acknowledge it as a global occupational hazard, most people don’t know how to combat burnout - they just know how to feel it! 83% of Americans say the future of our nation is a significant point of stress. That’s a lot of energy spent carrying the weight of the world. Learn how to combat burnout and keep your eyes on the horizon by integrating self-care blocks into your schedule and listening to your body when it's telling you that a break is needed. The good news is you’re not alone, no one is feeling productive right now, and that’s okay.

5.  We have to transform organizational development

Speaking of keeping our eyes on the horizon, we must take this opportunity to look into the future of how organizations could use these frameworks to create more equitable workplace cultures. We all want more inclusive workplaces - so much that we might let a few swear words out in a moment of passion. On our long journey to build a workplace that benefits everyone, we should look into the future of organizational development, including the ability of full-spectrum thinking that sees beyond the rigid categories and binaries, which embraces the fluid spectrum of possibilities. Transforming organizational development practices holds the potential to transform our societies. When we change the way our institutions function by centering strong human relationships, we invite the opportunity to rethink how we do business in the service of creating a world that works for all.  

It is scary to live in unprecedented times; not knowing what the future holds for our society is stressful for so many people. To try to summarize all of the lessons learned in such a tumultuous year would be nearly impossible, especially for those of us still processing it all. If you're one of the people still processing everything, myself and the Berrett-Koehler crew are right there with you. Take your time. Be kind to yourself. The only way to combat the unprecedented anxiety of the future is through the power of radical self-love.

What are the biggest ideas from 2020 that you want to bring into 2021? Leave a comment below with your picks!

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