2020 is almost over and no one is likely to mourn its passing.

Jonathan Knight reflects on this memorable year.

“COVID-19 has affected us all negatively in some way or another, personally and/or professionally. Yet, when in years to come we look back at 2020, my guess is that it will not be the momentous year it now seems. It is not really a year when everything has changed, like 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. Rather it has been a year when existing trends have accelerated. Online shopping, streaming video entertainment and even working from home were scarcely new, but now they have become the norm. The economic dominance of China and other Asian economies has been growing over the last 30 years, but in 2020 it has been consolidated, as elected Western macho populists like Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro have failed so abysmally to deal with the pandemic. Borders do not stop the virus any more than they stop technology – our problems are global, as are the solutions.

However, it is a year that we shall all remember and not fondly. 2020 has demanded a huge amount from us individually, in our organisations and our societies. Three of the qualities or abilities that have been most needed are agility, trust and resilience.  

To survive in 2020, we have all had to be agile and nimble. We have had to defy convention and, in many cases, tear up the rule book. We have had to master the constant changes, and thankfully improvements, in virtual communication tools, embrace new technologies and work out how to do the old things in new ways. HR and IT have become (or should have become) the great enablers of the virtual world. Yet in our work around the world, we see huge differences between organisations. In some, we have come across HR and IT functions that are so caught up in rules and processes that they drain energy, stop innovation and risk killing organisations completely. In others we have worked with HR and IT departments who work tirelessly to help make things happen and to serve their internal clients. Many even seem to relish the new freedoms that a virtual world can provide. Our friend, Ian Jessup, talks in an interview on our website about the new possibilities that virtual can provide (as well as the limitations).

Trust has never been more important than this year. Unable to meet people face-to-face, we have had to build new relationships virtually, which doesn’t always seem natural. Nevertheless, I think it has work. One of the highlights of the Ososim year has been the new partnership we have formed with ProfitAbility Business Simulations. We have worked closely with their team to convert their incredibly deep experience in running board game simulations into a successful digital product. Working entirely virtually, we have developed really rewarding and positive relationships with our talented new colleagues at ProfitAbility. Companies have also been forced to trust their employees as they have moved to home working and the traditional notion of working 9 to 5 has finally disappeared. Companies have been forced to value output rather than working hours, leaders have had to trust the wisdom and expertise of others more in an uncertain world and successful leaders are those that also inspire trust from their employees.  

Although most of us have been spared the draining effect of commuting and jetlag, we are probably reaching the end of the year exhausted. I am not convinced this is due to excessive screen time and endless Zoom or Teams meetings (although too few of us are disciplined enough to build in short breaks between each virtual meeting). Rather, it probably comes from continued uncertainty about the future or even where we will be allowed to go or who we can see tomorrow. It also comes from insufficient social interaction, as we are deprived of the energy that our friends and families normally give us. Our dear friend, Tara Swart, elsewhere on our website, provides the scientific explanation for this as well as some useful advice on how to improve resilience.

At Ososim, we are very grateful to have suffered only temporarily from the impact of COVID. Clients soon discovered that the power of simulations can be even greater virtually than face-to-face, and that they provide a wonderful opportunity for people to engage with each other and build new connections, as well as learn. It has been exciting and rewarding to sense the energy and enthusiasm in the synchronous sessions we have curated. We are delighted to have added some wonderful new clients this year including Anglo American, Danone, NHS Leadership Academy, Novartis, One America and Tarmac. Much of this work has happened with or through some of our wonderful partners and associates. To them and all our clients, we say thank you. In many cases, necessity has been the mother of innovation and we have together created some amazing experiences in this virtual world.

I am personally very grateful to have led a charmed life in 2020, in comparison with both friends and colleagues, and even more the wider world. Unlike my colleague, Tim, much of my lockdown has been relatively comfortable. I have been able to enjoy lockdown with my wife, Helena (although thanks to her work and mine we still see each other only fleetingly between Zoom calls). We have had long periods of time either constantly with children or without our children. We have missed friends but have improved our cooking skills (I like to think) so that when a social life is allowed, we shall hopefully be even better hosts. I took advantage of the good weather in the spring and summer to run and improve my mental and physical well-being (not quite so appealing when the days are short and wet). Like everyone, I look forward to 2021, although the negative impact of Brexit may be more damaging personally and professionally than Covid-19. To all our clients, partners and friends I wish you the very best for 2021, with a deep, heartfelt desire to be able to meet in person, wherever you are.”

– Jonathan Knight, CEO