Do We Bounce Back or Bounce Forward?

People keep talking about “bouncing back” from this pandemic. I wonder if bouncing “back” is the wrong metaphor. Back infers we will return to something similar to what we had before. Instead of bouncing back, can we consider bouncing forward, to something new?

Here are some reasons why we can choose to move towards something else:

  • We learned our supply chains are quite brittle. They don’t have resilience. (For food, medications, PPE, for almost anything. Especially not various kinds of paper.)
  • We learned that we can work from home. From home is not always the best remote work, but we can.
  • We learned that our school systems are quite brittle and that way too many children (in the US) don’t have sufficient internet access or even access to a computer.

Here in the US, we learned that our private “system” of health insurance is neither a system nor adequate. I’m not sure that we in the US have learned what to do about this.

And, definitely not least, we have learned more about policing and the relative injustice of our laws and the judicial system. We might be learning what to do about that.

When I look at this list—even just the three bullets above—I see we need something much more like a slinky than a resilient spring.

Slinky or Spring?

Have you ever played with a slinky? I loved to start it at the top of the stairs and watch the toy figure out how to make its way down the stairs.

Every so often, it would get stuck on the middle-of-the-stairs landing. I’d nudge it—and then it figured out how to continue down the stairs.

Okay, so I’m asserting more intelligence to the toy than it has. I hope you see my point.

When we use the metaphor of bouncing back, we assume the same constraints.

When we use the metaphor of bounding forward, we break those constraints. We assume different starting and ending connections.

The more we can break our assumptions about starting and ending connections, the more we can create new ways to bounce forward.

I don’t have the expertise to discuss anything in that above list except for remote work. We’ve been practicing with remote work and meetings for the past three months. I suspect we’ll continue to practice for a while.

It is true, there is nothing like getting together in an in-person community. And, even when we go to a conference, how many people do you interact with? Couple of hundred? Not all the people at the conference.

I’ve been attending sessions of the XP2020 conference and I’m thrilled I can dip in and out. While I would have loved to go to Copenhagen, I can still get substantial benefits from many sessions without having to be jet-lagged and taking time away from all my other work. I can do some of my home-work and still gain knowledge from the conference.

Would in-person be better? Yes, in many ways. Is this way sufficient? Yes, in many ways.

When we rethink our assumptions—and especially about bouncing back—we might find more ways to bounce forward. That would help us all create a new world. I’m excited about that.

That, my dear adaptable problem solvers, is the question this week: Do we bounce back or bounce forward?

3 thoughts on “Do We Bounce Back or Bounce Forward?

  1. Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

    Yes, volunteers, presenters, track chairs, and XP conference leadership and infrastructure folks have worked very hard to make it a conference experience as best we could. We bounced forward to the idea that 1. To accommodate different timezones the conference would be held in European late afternoon/US earlyish, NZ lateish, India lateish…And 2. sessions would be much shorter than in a physical conference.

    A lot of daily replanning is going on behind the scenes, to make things work better each day, too,

    Bouncing forward has meant letting go of some cherished assumptions about what makes a conference a unique experience and trying lots of experiments.

    1. Johanna Post author

      Rebecca, I love that part: “letting go of some cherished assumptions” and “lots of experiments.” For me, it’s working. Thank you and everyone else behind the scenes for a great conference.

  2. Pingback: Five Blogs – 17 June 2020 – 5blogs

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