People enjoy the comfort of believing that tomorrow will be more or less like today but, hopefully, better. The Covid-19 pandemic rattled that assumption but it has returned labeled as “the new normal.” Alan Weiss, a consultant, speaker, and author of 60 business books, warns that the new normal is a mirage. He has registered the term “no normal” to describe the ongoing disruptions rippling through society. His new book, Sentient Strategy: How to Create Market-Dominating Strategies in Turbulent Economies, Weiss urges organizational leaders to pay close attention to the environment in which their organization operates in order to formulate and adjust short-term strategies that take into account the possibility of dramatic shifts in that environment.
Through his consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., Weiss has worked with dozens of major corporations, including Merck, Hewlett-Packard, GE, Mercedes-Benz, and the New York Times Corporation, as well as the Federal Reserve. He has published 60 books, many of which have been on the curricula at top business schools. I asked him a few questions about his new book and the “no normal.”
Grit Daily: What do you mean by the phrase “sentient strategy”?
Alan Weiss: I mean a self-aware strategy that allows the key officers/owners to create a vision and framework for their future short-term (by that, I mean a year) and do it quickly (and by that I mean within as little as a day).
By “self-aware,” I mean an acute understanding of the environment in which they intend to operate and contribute, and a consciousness of the impact of their action on the employees, customers, investors, and community.
Grit Daily: I find the phrase “No Normal®” quite disconcerting, yet you have trademarked the term. I like to presume some predictability from day to day. What does “no normal” even mean?
Alan Weiss: That question is exactly what I want to be asked, and “disconcerting” is the point. We’re not facing a “new normal.” Normal means typical and average. Is that what we should strive for? What we’re facing is a “no reality,” which is different. We need to understand that “no normal” is the future.
Grit Daily: You write that “The idea we will ‘return to normal’ or establish a ‘new normal’ is preposterous.” I find that statement hyperbolic, but please tell us what you mean.
Alan Weiss: I’m glad I’m causing these reactions with you. Consider that no one predicted the internet and it has changed the world. Now we’re looking at AI, including ChatGT, 3D printing, the ability to alter voices and video to represent words and actions that people actually never said or performed. You think that’s hyperbole?
Grit Daily: You discourage advocating for “best practices,” which is standard in most professions, in favor of a focus on “better practices.” That sounds like the continuous improvement philosophy that Japanese auto manufacturers have long followed. Or is it something different?
Alan Weiss: It’s related, and the Japanese did damn well with it. Best practices create a false sense of security and people stop searching for further innovation. Dyson is an ideal example of continuing better practices, as is Apple, as is Amazon.
Grit Daily: What are the most disruptive trends you see now?
Alan Weiss: The unregulated spread of social media and the attendant misinformation and disinformation; fear of AI, not AI itself; 3D printing on steroids; poor management of partially present and partially remote employees; misguided motivation efforts (money is not a motivator).
Grit Daily: Is there anything you want to mention that I have not asked about?
Alan Weiss: Yes — the rest of the book. But let me just say this: The notion that we can continue the folly of looking years into the future and spending weeks to do so without regular accountability on progress for the senior team makes Wile E. Coyote look like an effective predator.