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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 014
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now. 

In today’s newsletter…
  1. A problematic obsession with the old normal from Ben Cheney
  2. A challenge for more resilient technology from Osei Kwakye
  3. Making room for laughs from Makena Drutman
  And this time, our illustrations from Nora Mestrich.
From the Field

01 / Normal is the enemy, normal is the future 

From Ben Cheney
The world we knew in February 2020 is gone. But that doesn’t stop humans from believing this change is temporary and that one day things will “return to normal.” (As if the world were “normal” before COVID anyway.) The sooner we come to terms with reality, embrace this as normal and start designing the future from there, the better off we will all be. 
Why It Matters
Remember February 2020? The good ol’ days? We could travel the world freely. We could go see Post Malone on tour with 15,000 other people. We could go to the grocery store and not worry about crowding someone picking for apples in the same bin. Life was good. Life was normal. Or was it? The truth is, normal is right now. (That’s a bitter pill, isn’t it?) Normal is making sure my 4 year old keeps his mask over his nose at the store. Normal is waiting my turn at the apple bin. Normal is watching a livestream of Post Malone playing Nirvana tunes in a dress at his house. And yes, normal is wishing it were February 2020. But we must be careful; normalcy bias, or the “human tendency to believe change is temporary and that the future will again resemble the past,” is a dangerous construct that ignores reality in favor of what once was. We must not only be resilient in this time of uncertainty and struggle, but also thoughtfully leverage the lessons of this moment—both good and bad—to inform how we progress into the post-COVID future.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Pay close attention to the present.
Normalcy bias refuses to learn from the present in order to make progress in the future. Instead of wishing for ‘normal,’ how might we learn from the present to channel our resilience and create a healthier, more inclusive, more compassionate normal? 

02 / Product in the Time of COVID  

From Osei Kwakye
While consumer tech has always been human-centered, the pandemic and the subsequent shift towards distributed, remote work has forced many tech companies to be even more responsive to the evolving human needs of their users. Collaboration products like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Dropbox are leading the way through new consciously designed features intended to mitigate the emerging challenges of working from home amidst a global health crisis. As such, product development is reorienting towards features that promote employee wellness, facilitate meaningful connections across organizations, and help keep users’ personal and professional lives securely organized.
Why It Matters
Dropbox CEO and co-founder, Drew Houston, recently made the claim that the pandemic has essentially nudged us through a “one-way door.” Some of the new ways of working that we are currently experimenting with are likely to stick around even after this public health crisis has been resolved. So as we fundamentally change what work means in the “new normal,” we will need tools that not only help us get the work done, but also foster our sense of human resilience as we navigate this seismic transition.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Optimize resilience over productivity in times of uncertainty.
The ways in which your organization leveraged technology pre-COVID might not translate into distributed work. And while the tech industry is making efforts, it’s important to acknowledge that there may not be an elegant, turn-key solution to the emotional and interpersonal challenges that may arise within your organization. As leaders, you will need to make an ongoing effort to evaluate your teams’ human needs and find the tools that best meet them, or risk suffering from collective burnout. 

03 / LMAO: Laughing My Anxiety Off   

From Makena Drutman
Amid a global health crisis, doctors are prescribing a simple home remedy: laughter. Research has demonstrated that humor can be a helpful tool for getting through stress or anxiety: beyond simply serving as a distraction, humor has tangible benefits such as helping people remain resilient in the face of adversity, keeping negative emotions in check, and providing a healthy perspective. 
Why It Matters
While it might seem obvious, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good LOL in building human connection, especially when tensions are running high. Whether interacting with customers or employees, laughter makes people feel more in control in an otherwise helpless situation: in the words of Dr. B.J. Miller, “If you can’t change what you are dealing with, you can at least change how you view it.” 
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Make room for more laughs.
We’re not saying you (or your brand) has to be the comedian of the room. What we are saying is sharing funny TikToks and communicating in GIFs are actually good for the soul - so embrace them as little tools for building resilience in our daily work (and personal!) lives.

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