How the economic reset will bring a return to humanity

Tony Chapman explores what reinvention could look like for businesses, governments and people when all of this is over.


By Tony Chapman

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of strategy.

tony-chapman_headshotMae Mary Bellevance, my mother, was born in 1930, on a small farm outside of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. For the first ten years of her life, during the Great Depression, her family struggled to survive.

As a result, my mother learned to be resilient, resourceful, thrifty and creative. She married my father, had four kids, but continued to battle the unfairness of life. She took on the responsibility of keeping a roof over our head, as my dad was bipolar. This tireless woman found time to sew most of our clothes, invent board games, and put something under the tree.

Her resilience, resourcefulness, thriftiness and creativeness was passed on to me, and in turn, I passed some of Mae Mary Bellevance to my kids.

The Great Depression was 90 years ago, yet it continues to make an impression. I believe the coronavirus pandemic will have the same lasting impression on humanity: it will have a significant emotional and economic reset on how we think and behave as individuals and as organizations.

That’s a good thing.

We spent the last two decades feeding at the trough of entitlement, with individuals and governments borrowing trillions on the backs of future generations to pay for our insatiable appetite for more.

Politicians claimed power by feathering partisan nests. Unions thought nothing of striking the spirit of impressionable youth. In capitalism, leaders established their worth at tens of millions of dollars, hedge fund managers, and new economy capitalists billions more. Sports stars paraded their massive signings. Public service workers fortified their guaranteed pensions and jobs at a time where many working in the private sector were standing on shifting sand with growing uncertainty and insecurity.

Well, the times are a-changing and my advice to you is to accept and embrace a new normal.

Entitlement will give way to resilience.

Me will have to become we.

The haves will give back to the have-nots.

Jobs will be treasured. Strikes will be throttled.

Public services will get a fair deal, that is fair to all.

Education will be fluid and entice and pursue the learner versus force curriculums on a protected path.

Companies will need a higher purpose than profit, and brands will need to narrowcast. Less meaningless line extension, packaging waste, and flair.

Leaders will earn the emotional rewards that come from a turnaround, and steering ship in a storm, versus financial rewards engineered through stock buybacks and other balance sheet engineering.

Automation that sacrifices human work, simply for profit, will be considered the same as a company dumping pollutants.

And you and me, we will choose to either make it happen or watch and wonder what happened.

My choice is to leap into the renaissance of human creativity and ingenuity that will erupt as silos and bureaucracy get jackhammered away. Less is more, small is big. I don’t need a shipping lane or to be part of an existing supply chain. I can link to anyone through the clouds.

The values that my mother taught me – to be resilient, resourceful, thrifty and creative – will do well in this coming reinvention. My only regret is not being twenty again, to realize the emotional rewards of humanity working once again, together.

Tony Chapman is the founder of Chapman Reactions. He is also host of Chatter That Matters, a weekly podcast that tackles solutions to challenges that small business owners are facing during COVID-19.