The New Normal

A path to the post-corona future.

I expect you are busy trying to get back to normal. It is completely understandable that you want everything to be as it was before. That everything will go back to NORMAL again, damn it!
But is that even possible? And anyway, what is NORMAL?

Let us think about the world before Corona. We often only understand a place when we have left it and look back. The same applies to a certain time, or an era. Can you remember how the planes were full and overcrowded and how you stood in long lines and got annoyed. And when people on trains spoke loudly on their phones and the containers came across the oceans and brought goods, goods, and more goods. Everything was full of adverts that kept popping up on the screens. Everyone had fun, a lot of fun. Everything was getting faster, cheaper, but also more annoying. New sales records were being constantly announced by companies and new goals set.

The victory pose was the norm at management congresses.
Although not always. In January 2020, a month before the virus outbreak, Greta Thunberg arrived in Davos by train. She looked a little lost between all the gentlemen in suits and ties, who somehow looked guilty, but asserted that now, soon, they want to do everything better. Ever larger cruise ships sailed the oceans and moored in places like Venice. There on the quay was an unrecognized street artist named Banksy, selling paintings of big fat cruise ships at the Venice Pier. Some even bought pictures because they thought they were tourist pictures of beautiful Venice.


The OLD NORMAL was a hectic time. A time of fears and disquiet. Particularly on the Internet, but not only, hatred, shitstorms, and malice blossomed. In talk shows everything was dismantled, fragmented, polarised. The main goal in this culture of accusation was to have the last word.

We were addicted to more and more feedback. Also, to fears and more fears. And after endless fun, we wanted more.
But at the same time, we were completely confused. Confused and disorientated.
It was a normal that didn’t believe in its future. A normal that was in love with its own demise.
And then suddenly: silence. At the airport. At the station. Downtown. In the stadium. On the piers.
Honestly, do you really want to go back there? To the OLD NORMAL?

There is no question of wanting, you say. But where should we go? We have to carry on with our usual life. With the economy and prosperity. Everything has to start up again. Really quickly. Very urgently. Otherwise everything will collapse.

How We Construct The World

Most people believe that the world is something fixed that we can only look at and evaluate from the outside. But really, the world is in our head. Our brain is like a simulation machine in which we continuously construct realities.

Our perception of the world is shaped by expectation routines that run like a machine. We continuously create images, constructions, ideologies that we project onto the world. This makes it appear controllable. These constructs, which represent our expectations, are pure fictions. But we think they are real. We insist on them at any cost. Until we confuse them with ourselves.

Basically, it’s a kind of drug addiction. When we feel our expectations and prejudices confirmed, we experience a little burst of euphoria. A dose of the happiness hormone is released in our brains: It tells us, I knew it! This pleasant feeling has been programmed into us by evolution so that we can deal with all that is going on in the world. So we can survive better.
Many of our prejudices and demands about what the world is really like have to do with the so-called reminiscence bump
This is how cognitive psychologists describe the intensive phase in which our picture of the world is formed, typically in our youth. That is the “set point” of our expectations of the world. We then carry this view of what the world should be like throughout our life.

It is precisely these inner routines that torment us. They make us fragile. They keep us in a state of constant irritation and permanent dissatisfaction. Because something always comes and disturbs them – the world never works the way we want it to. We become more and more nervous when the world does not match our expectations. At some point we might even think the bad is good – because we feel our world view is confirmed (and get that little kick of euphoria). Or we just stare at the bad stuff and feel our fears and worries are justified. That is the negativity bias. Then we move to malice. To devalue the world, including our inner world.

Our main concern is whether we have enough meaning in the world. We do everything for meaning. That’s why we go online and crave “likes”. We bombard fellow human beings with our opinions, fears and aggressions. Or pose with our smartphones at the “best places in the world” to make sure that we are “there”.

But we are not there at all, not really. There is no there, there.

Conspiracy theories also have to do with this self-assurance. Conspiracy friends feel very brave and extremely important. You feel very different from everyone else – nothing like the stupid mainstream! However, this is an indication that they actually feel completely unsettled.
You can observe this particularly well in Donald Trump. But sometimes also with yourself.

In the crisis, this constantly working machine of expectations suddenly came to a grinding halt. It suddenly became pointless. Many of us took a kind of internal inventory. Those who knew how to use the crisis in this respect got to know their inner ghosts and demons a little better. They negotiated with them. And they were changing.

We are sailing away from the old world, the pre-corona world. But where will we sail to?

How Change Happens

There are two different views of the new normal that is emerging. One view assumes that something new is actually beginning. We may not yet know exactly what that is. But there is an indication that the future is going to go in a different direction.
The other mindset is represented by those who have always known everything. The crisis will not change anything. People, societies, are unable to change. Everything is going down the drain, only now it will go faster.
It is however, absolutely impossible for everything to remain as it was. People, societies, cultures, change all the time, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. That is the evolutionary principle.

Isn’t life just a series of crises? Birth, childhood, puberty, work, family and ageing. Aren’t all these crisis-like events, transitions, transformations always connected to pain and loss if they are to succeed? Do we not always experience that crisis in love, our professions or life meaning lead to new directions if we accept them?
That is, if we find answers IN US instead of constantly referring to our claims and demands of the old normal?

Sometimes distant disasters can change the course of history. The terrible Lisbon earthquake in 1755, which killed 60,000 people, led to a surge in the enlightenment in Europe, the effect of which extended far into the future. At that time Voltaire wrote his manifesto for the sense of mind, architecture, ways of thinking, mentalities changed; a new era began.

Following the Great Depression of 1928, often cited as a comparison for the COVID crisis, a new social contract arose in America. In the NEW DEAL, the balance between civil society, business and politics was redefined. This created a model of prosperity and progress that proved to be extremely successful for more than half a century. Of course, this model of the “West” also had its dark sides and relapses. But it created the future, it changed the world.

Is it really so completely out of the question that the COVID crisis will accelerate the GREEN DEAL? I think that’s very likely. The economy needs new legitimacy in the Corona era. A new narrative that connects us to customers, companies, the markets of the future.

Tomorrow’s world is made from the fragments of the past. Erich Panofsky

This crisis will change the global balance of power. It reveals where social systems have grown and where they have not. Small countries, often led by women. New Zealand with Jacinda Ardern, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Austria, and also Sweden with its cooperative special path – will not only get through the crisis better, they will be winners in terms of forming new levels of social trust. In other countries, such as the USA, Brazil, Russia, the split, the inner breakdown, is all the more visible.

The Limits of Decadence

What will change permanently in the NEW NORMAL is also our idea of fun – which isn’t fun anymore.
Remember how the virus danced on the tables when the after-ski parties in Ischgl reached their peak. The Champions League football game Atalanta-Valencia on February 19, with 44,000 frenetic fans, spread the virus across southern Europe. Now even the Munich beer festival (Oktoberfest), has been canceled! The Octoberfest! That very symbol for the fun society, for the rituals of intoxication and the joy of life!

My friend Michael Lehofer explores the new limits of fun in his new essay “The Strange Relief”: (full German text: „Die unheimliche Erleichterung”):

“Many of us secretly experience an almost shameful relief in the crisis, a release from excess, not least from a part of yourself. It is a forbidden happiness in misfortune. The part that we can rid ourselves of is decadence. Decadence is the over-refinement of our living habits and demands. In short: we have weakened ourselves through self-pampering and no longer know what we stand for and what we really need. We all try to live a good life. We therefore optimise enjoyment and then destroy it. Think of all the people who enjoy their excesses who then tell you about their supposedly great experiences. The stories that do not sound real, and have an emptiness about them as if they had only read about them. The emptiness in these stories is explained by their idea of what is beautiful precedes their experience. What we cannot experience does not fill us up. This explains the insatiability of decadence.”

Of course, there will be parties again in the New Normal. We will fly to Mallorca again, soccer games will take place, cruise ships will sail. But what will these cruise ships look like? Are we really going to go back to sitting in crowded low-cost airlines for 25€ a pop? Will football continue to move towards insanely expensive glamour stars and stadium riots?

All of this had already reached its limits in the Old Normal. The cruise industry is currently preparing for a completely different future, just like the aerospace industry (and slowly the auto industry, football and many other industries). Many boom markets, as smart managers have known for a long time, will be smaller in the future, more volatile and slower. And yes, greener, more sustainable, more careful.

The Economist, the world’s most important business magazine, calls this the 90 percent economy. The thesis is that the global economy will never reach its pre-corona overheated position. At least ten percent will be missing. However, without this crucial ten percent turbo capitalism does not happen. That means the slowing down of globalisation.

The No-calypse

Without a doubt, this crisis has brought much suffering, excruciating insecurities, economic hardship. You can’t talk it down, and it’s not over yet. But at the same time, it gives us the chance to look at things differently. It makes things about the future clearer, more transparent. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make something out of it?

What could be different in the NEW NORMAL, for example, would be the feeling of gratitude. We can be thankful to those who kept civilisation running. To those made sure that it wasn’t an apocalypse, but (as my son Tristan called it) a NO-calypse. The world went “down”, but surprisingly some things worked even better than before.

We should be grateful that we are experiencing a crisis that differs significantly from the terrible disasters that our ancestors experienced. When our grandparents crawled out of the rubble of World War II 75 years ago, it was barely conceivable that a peaceful, prosperous time would come.

He who is grateful does not put his ego, his expectations, opinions and demands in the middle point of life. He sees what there is. And what can become of it with what he does.

In the NEW NORMAL we will no longer be persuaded that there is only one economic model for the future, that standard growth model of the economy. For example, we would take Iceland’s new wealth index as a benchmark, which also measures the qualitative dimensions of prosperity – environment, health, connectedness, quality of life, self-awareness.

We could be more relaxed. We could choose not to chase and react on every media-inflated hysteria, every galloping fear.
We could be friendlier. To those we are connected to. But also with those we will get to know.
We could be more responsible. For ourselves, for our own thinking, our feelings.

“Learning to think means that we learn some control over the HOW and WHAT of our thinking. It means being conscious enough to decide where to focus our attention. And to understand how we generate meaning from experience.” David Foster Wallace

The interesting thing about the NEW NORMAL is that it can no longer be understood with the criteria of the past.
We should bear this in mind when we cautiously feel our way back to NORMAL. The future begins when we start to feel awe. And when we stop preventing the future by not believing in it.

The Re-gnose Way

Finally, let’s go back to sitting on the future chair. It is the end of October 2020. You are sitting in a cafe in Venice, on St. Mark’s Square.

Soon there will be acqua alta again, the autumn flood.
How high will it be this year?
What has changed – possibly forever? Do people walk across the square? Do you wear all masks?
Do you hear the typical clacking of the trolley case on the pavement?
Do you see the waiter? A cool Italian guy, mid 50s. Does he wear a mask? Yes, a mask in the Italian colours.
Are there pigeons? Where did all the pigeons go? What has this place already seen? Pomp and commerce, riots, reforms, revolutions. And always epidemics. Plagues have, each century. changed Venice, and through these crises, the incomparable beauty of this city has emerged.

From here, everything reaches deep into the past and far into the future.
Are there the trails of planes in the sky?
Is there already a huge cruise ship out there on the quay, with 3500 passengers and soot marks on the chimney?
Feel how the world is re-forming. We can trust that it is always reforming.
Look back at yourself as you were in lockdown time. Then look ahead to a world that strikes a different note, plays a different melody. Can you visualise yourself there?
Re-gnosis means that we understand that we ourselves are part of the future. We are the change we hope for from the world.
When you yourself become new, so too does the world.
You will see then that the future has long since been here. This is how change works.

Iza’s Story

And people stayed at home
And read books and listened
And rested and did exercises
And made art and played
And new ways of being
And then they stopped.

And listened deeper
Someone meditated
Someone was praying
Someone was dancing
Someone met their own shadow
And people started thinking differently.

And people healed.
And in the absence of people who lived
In ignorant ways
Senseless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal.

Nach einem Gedicht von Grace Ramsay [Kathleen O’Meara, 1839–1888]

Kathleen O’Meara, Künstlername Grace Ramsay (1839 – 10 November 1888) war eine irisch-französische Autorin, in der späten victorianischen Zeit. Das Gedicht stammt aus “Izas Story”, die den Konflikt zwischen polnischen Patrioten und der russischen Besatzung schildert. Die Kämpfer gingen in Isolation im Untergrund und erlebten eine Art “Corona-Zeit”.

The Post Corona World

A Backwards Corona Forecast:
Or how we will be surprised when the crisis is “over”

At the moment I am often asked when Corona “will be over” and when everything will return to normal. My answer is: never. There are historical moments when the future changes direction. We call them bifurcations. Or deep crises. These times are now.
The world as we know it is dissolving. But behind it comes a new world, the formation of which we can at least imagine. For this I would like to offer you an exercise with which we have had good experiences in vision processes at companies. We call it the RE-gnosis. In contrast to the PRO-gnosis, we do not look “into the future” with this technique. But from the future BACK to today. Sounds crazy? Let’s try it:

The RE-gnosis: Our world in autumn 2020

Let’s imagine a situation in autumn, let’s say in September 2020. We are sitting in a street cafe in a big city. It is warm and people are walking down the pavements again.

Do they move differently? Is everything the same as before? Does the wine, the cocktail, the coffee taste like it used to? Like it did before Corona?
Or even better?
Looking back, what will we be surprised about?

We will be surprised that our social distancing rarely led to a feeling of isolation. On the contrary, after an initial paralysing shock, many of us were relieved that the constant racing, talking, communicating on a multitude of channels suddenly came to a halt. Distancing does not necessarily mean loss, but can open up new possibilities. Some have already experienced this, for example trying interval fasting — and suddenly enjoyed food again. Paradoxically, the physical distance that the virus forced upon us also created new closeness. We met people who we would never have met otherwise. We contacted old friends more often, strengthened ties that had become loose. Families, neighbours, friends, have become closer and sometimes even solved hidden conflicts.

The social courtesy that we previously increasingly missed, increased.
Now in autumn 2020 there is a completely different mood at football games than in spring when there was a lot of mass rage. We wonder why that is.

We will be amazed at how quickly digital cultural techniques have suddenly proven themselves in practice. Teleconferencing and video conferencing, which most colleagues had always resisted (the business class flight was better), turned out to be quite practical and productive. Teachers learned a lot about internet teaching. The home office became a matter of course for many — including the improvisation and time juggling that goes with it.

At the same time, apparently outdated cultural techniques experienced a renaissance. Suddenly you got not only the answering machine when you called, but real people. The virus spawned a new culture of long phone calls without people juggling a second screen. The “messages” themselves suddenly took on a new meaning. You really communicated again. Nobody was kept waiting anymore. Nobody was stalled. This created a new culture of accessibility, of commitment.

People who never came to rest due to the hectic rush, including YOUNG people, suddenly went for long walks (an activity formerly unknown to them). Reading books suddenly became a cult.

Reality shows suddenly seemed awkward and the whole trivia trash, the garbage for the soul that flowed through all channels seemed ridiculous. No, it didn’t completely disappear. But it was rapidly losing value.

Can anyone remember the political correctness debate? The infinite number of cultural wars? What, we will ask ourselves, was that all about?
Crises work primarily by dissolving old phenomena, making them superfluous …

Cynicism, a casual way of devaluing the world, was suddenly out.
The exaggeration and culture of fear and hysteria in the media was limited after a short first outbreak.
In addition, the infinite flood of cruel crime series reached its tipping point.

We will be surprised that drugs were developed in the summer that increased the survival rate. This lowered the death rate and made Corona a virus that we have to deal with — much like the flu and many other diseases. Medical progress helped. But we also learned that it was not so much technology, but a crucial change in social behaviour. The decisive factor was that people could have solidarity and be constructive despite radical restrictions. Human-social intelligence has helped. The much-vaunted artificial intelligence, which promised to solve everything, has only had a limited effect on Corona.

This has shifted the relationship between technology and culture. Before the crisis, technology seemed to be the panacea, the bearer of all utopias. No one — or only a few hard-boiled people — still believe in the great digital redemption today. The big technology hype is over. We are again turning our attention to the humane questions: What is mankind? What do we mean to each other?

We are astonished to see how much humour and humanity actually emerged in the days of the virus.

We will be amazed at how far the economy could shrink without collapsing, something which was predicted during every pre-corona tax increase and every government intervention. Although there was a “black April”, a deep economic downturn and a 50 percent drop in the stock market, although many companies went bankrupt, shrank or mutated into something completely different, it never came to zero. As if the economy was a breathing being that can also nap or sleep and even dream.

Today in the Autumn, there is a global economy again. But global just-in-time production, with huge branched value chains, in which millions of individual parts are carted across the planet, is now in trouble. It is currently being dismantled and reconfigured. Interim storage facilities, depots and reserves are growing again everywhere in production and service facilities. Local production is booming, networks are being localised, and crafts are experiencing a renaissance. The global system is drifting towards GLOCALisation: the localisation of the global.

We will be surprised that even the loss of assets due to the stock market crash does not hurt as much as it felt in the beginning. In the new world, wealth suddenly no longer plays the decisive role. Good neighbours and a blossoming vegetable garden are more important.
Could it be that the virus has changed our lives in a direction that we wanted to change anyway?

RE-gnosis: coping with the present through a leap into the future.

Why does this kind of “from the future scenario” seem so irritatingly different from a classic forecast? This is related to the specific properties of our sense of the future. When we look “into the future”, we typically only see the dangers and problems coming towards us that pile up onto insurmountable barriers. Like a locomotive coming out of the tunnel that runs over us. This fear barrier separates us from the future. That’s why horror futures are always the easiest to depict.

RE-gnosis, on the other hand, form a loop of knowledge in which we include ourselves and our inner change in the future. We connect internally with the future, and this creates a bridge between today and tomorrow. A form of “Future Mind” is created.

If you do it right, something like future intelligence is created. We are able to anticipate not only the external “events”, but also the internal adaptations with which we react to a changed world.
That feels very different from a forecast that always has something dead, sterile in its anticipatory character. We leave the stiffness of fear and return to the vitality that belongs to every true future.

We all know the feeling of successfully overcoming fear. When we go to the dentist for treatment, we are worried a long time in advance. We lose control on the dentist’s chair and it hurts before it hurts. In anticipating this feeling, we bathe ourselves in fears that can completely overwhelm us. Once we have survived the treatment, there is a feeling of coping: the world looks young and fresh again, and we are suddenly full of drive.

Neuro-biologically, fear adrenaline is replaced by dopamine, a type of endogenous drug of the future. While adrenaline leads us to flee or fight (which is not really productive in the dentist’s chair, and just as useless in the fight against corona), dopamine opens our brain synapses: we are excited about what is to come, curious, foresighted. When we have a healthy dopamine level, we make plans, we have visions that lead us to the forward-looking action.

Surprisingly, many experience exactly this in the Corona crisis. A massive loss of control suddenly turns into a veritable intoxication of the positive. After a period of bewilderment and fear, an inner strength arises.The world “ends”, but with the experience that we are still there, a kind of new being arises from inside us.
In the middle of civilisation’s shutdown, we run through forests or parks, or across almost empty spaces. This is not an apocalypse, but a new beginning.
This is how it turns out: Change begins as a changed pattern of expectations, perceptions and world connections. Sometimes it is precisely the break with routines, the familiar, that releases our sense of the future again. The idea and certainty that everything could be completely different — and even better.

We may even be surprised that Trump will be voted out of office in November. The AfD [a right-wing to far-right political party in Germany] is losing popularity and attention because a malicious, divisive policy does not fit into a Corona world. The Corona crisis made it clear that those who want to incite people against each other have nothing to contribute to real questions about the future. When things get serious, the destructiveness that lives in populism becomes clear.

Politics — in its original sense as the formation of social responsibilities — received new credibility through this crisis, a new legitimacy. Precisely because it had to act in an ”authoritarian” manner, politics created trust in society. Science also experienced an astonishing renaissance in the crisis. Virologists and epidemologists became media stars, but also “futuristic” philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, who were previously left on the sidelines of polarised debates, regained their voice and value.
Fake news, however, rapidly lost market value. Conspiracy theories also suddenly looked ridiculous.

A virus as an accelerator of evolution

Deep crises also point to another basic principle of change: the trend-countertrend synthesis.
The new world after Corona — or better with Corona — arises from the disruption of the megatrend CONNECTIVITY. Politically and economically this phenomenon is also called “globalisation”. The interruption of connectivity — through border closings, separations, seclusions, quarantines — does not lead to the abolition of the connections. But it enables the reorganisation of the things that hold our world together and carry it into the future. There is a phase jump in socio-economic systems.

The world to come will appreciate distance again — and this will make connectedness more qualitative. Autonomy and dependency, opening and closing are rebalanced. This can make the world more complex, but also more stable. This transformation is largely a blind evolutionary process — because one fails, the new, the viable, prevails. This makes you dizzy at first, but then it shows its inner meaning: and what connects the paradoxes on a new level is sustainable.
This process of complexation — not to be confused with COMPLICATION — can also be consciously designed by people. Those who can, who speak the language of the coming complexity, will be the leaders of tomorrow. The hope-bearers. The up and coming Gretas.

“Through Corona we will adapt our entire attitude towards life — in the sense of our existence as living beings in the midst of other forms of life.”

Slavo Zizek at the height of the corona crisis in mid-March

Every deep crisis leaves a story, a narrative that points far into the future. One of the strongest images left by the corona virus are of the Italians making music on the balconies. The second image was sent to us by satellite images that suddenly showed the industrial areas of China and Italy free of smog. In 2020, human CO2 emissions will drop for the first time. That very fact will do something to us.

If the virus can do that, then can we possibly do it? Maybe the virus was just a messenger from the future. The drastic message is: Human civilisation has become too dense, too fast, and overheated. It is racing too fast in a direction in which there is no future.
But it can reinvent itself.
System reset.
Cool down!
Music on the balconies!

This is how the future works.

Note: This text can be freely printed with the credit to and