Avoid learning too many lessons from these ‘unprecedented times’

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has radically changed the way many people are working and has accelerated the take up of digital tools more than anything…ever. 

There is excitement about all the previously barricaded doors it is opening across institutions (to be fair this is partly a displacement activity from all the stress and anxiety of everything else that is happening!) as long held prejudices against remote working and digital tools are crumbling. It is even clear the double whammy of security and productivity are not the show stoppers they had long been held up to be.

Other people are writing and will write much better takes on these new opportunities than me. I have some small ambitions of my own – not least spending much less time away from Bristol – but generally I’m just muddling through like everyone else.

The big thing I just want to keep reminding people though is while there will be lessons to learn from all this we need to take them with a grain of salt. There are not normal times and I think the change in attitudes is probably a lot more fragile than some people think. Digital services and ways of working are going to come in for a lot of scrutiny after things settle down and for many people they will forever be associated with a crisis response – not business as usual. We’ll need to pick our battles – this isn’t going to mean carte blanche for every digital transformation plan that has previously stalled.

There will definitely be changes that stick and opportunities to grab but also lessons to be learned about the limitations of digital and the need for truly inclusive services for citizens…and staff.

I just want to make sure we don’t just roll a crisis response into business as usual without taking the time to let people recover a little and actually design what we want things to look like in the future.

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