Make time for honouring, mourning, and reflecting before embracing 2021

By Vivian Warby

ANA Publishing

Cape Town, South Africa


Is what we have created in the past few months valuable? Is this really what we care about? Does it reflect who we are as a company?

As we draw to the end of a year full of changing direction and new creation, where execution was all important, perhaps what we need is to stop, breathe, and ask the important questions: Is what we have created really needed? If yes, how can we improve on it?

Will the products and services created during the global pandemic be needed in the future? Questions like these require reflection going into the new year.
Will the products and services created during the global pandemic be needed in the future? Questions like these require reflection going into the new year.

In a recent talk, the British-Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton said this type of questioning should be 90% of our thinking. “Yes, execution is arduous,” he said. “It means we are dashing around, trying to raise capital, execute. But perhaps what is harder to do is to stop and ask the pertinent questions about what we are creating.”

It is so much harder, he suggested, to stop and insist on another round of chiselling than to just dash off and execute. However, if anything, a global crisis necessitated a lot of dashing off and creating.

But by the same token, the end of a year normally calls for reflection while a new year calls for a new set of actions. And perhaps this is exactly what we as an industry could be doing: reflecting.

This has been a year riddled by words such as “pivot,” “thinking on your feet,” “shut down,” and, yes, “mad execution.” Many of us had to think on our feet and create new and interesting ways of staying relevant in the media industry, and, in particular, to our clients.

Here are the things our team did over the past year as a response:

  • We immediately pivoted to a digital magazine and became part of the lobbying efforts of the industry we serve to get it reopened.
  • Our company began a free digital magazine division. It flourished even as the COVID-19 disaster saw many print magazine casualties and as more people became comfortable with digital reads.
  • We developed new and enticing packages for clients that now includes things such as podcasts and webinars.
  • We grew our online followers. In some cases we more than doubled our following.
  • We built membership models as people looked to connect with like-minded individuals and benefit from reward systems in tough times.
  • We consolidated a number of units and streamlined many systems.
  • We prioritised.
  • We let go of legacy products that no longer made sense.
  • We became more creative, innovative, and resourceful.
  • We reached out more to our global peers, had more opportunity to connect to them online, and wondered why we had not done this before.
  • We had access via free Webinars to some of the greatest minds in the media and the marketing world. And, in my department, the property world.
  • We produced products that mattered to our audiences. In our property department one of the new magazines to come out of lockdown Was one called Simply Green. Our first issue was about growing your own vegetables — a direct response to the growth of garden kitchens. It is doing well. We also launched Property360 and Home Improver.
  • Collaboration within our own company became the name of the game. Competition went out the backdoor. We now call it CollPetition.

There was not much time, if any, to sit and ponder our creations.

We are also thinner on the ground than we were a year ago. There have been retrenchments, resignations, and illness that have claimed colleagues. And this, too, needs reflection and honouring.

We seldom get a moment to stop, be mindful, and take stock of what we have been through — to consider what we have lost that should return, or maybe what we have created that we may no longer need.

Yet as creators, we are well aware of the importance of the pause. How valuable that moment away from the task at hand is — how it is often in the reflection that some of the best work emerges.

As the year 2020 draws to an end, let us stop, if even for just a moment, and reflect. Let us ask the critical questions about what we have created, ensuring that, as we mark the end of the year, we enter a new one with creations that are relevant and valuable. And, where necessary, we may even need to to chisel away at them or even “pivot” again.

If anything, the pandemic has shocked us by showing us how quickly we can let go of things, and how, just as quickly, we can create new things. We have been forced to see our adaptability, our resilience, and our genius. It is then, of course, also a time not only to evaluate our creations but to honour ourselves and those people and creations that didnt make it here with us.

Honour the moment but also have fun with the pause.

Make your list, pat yourself on the back, ask the hard questions, make new sets of rules even, and then take a deep breath and exhale. We made it here, even when we thought we may not.

About Vivian Warby

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