The words above are from a masterful song crafted in July of 1970 - a season of intense unease. Now 50 years later, July of 2020, and this iconic musical masterpiece, fueled by racial tensions, police brutality, a globe on edge and harshly divided over war, as well as environmental anxieties, remains as poignant as it did five decades ago, when upon its release, quickly ascended to #2 on Billboard’s Pop Chart. As a further testament to the enduring relevancy of Marvin Gaye’s monster hit, Rolling Stone Magazine ranks "What's Going On" as #4 on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of all time!
Father, father…We don’t need to escalate…
You see, war is not the answer...For only love can conquer hate…
You know we’ve got to find a way...To bring some lovin’ here today…
As I write, the United States and much of the world are afflicted by many of the same social, political and environmental struggles we wrestled with so long ago. Even for those who lived through the tumultuous 60’s and 70’s, 2020 feels bigger…more severe… more consequential! And of course, for those who have only read about life “back then,” the current state of the state can at times feel as though the world has completely fallen off its axis.
Picket lines (Sister) and picket signs (Sister)....Don’t punish me (Sister) with brutality (Sister)
Talk to me (Sister), so you can see (Sister)...
Oh… what’s going on (What’s going on)... What’s going on (What’s going on)
Yeah… what’s going on (What’s going on)... Oh… what’s going on
Change… in any form, any context, almost always comes at a cost. The topic of “change” has been written and talked about for decades now. Some of the best TED Talks cover the topic of change and the multitude of ways in which we humans react and absorb unplanned events.
The full weight of the changes we have all been subjected to halfway through 2020, cannot and should not be minimized. Truly, there isn’t a single living person who has not been touched in one way or another, by one, or several disruptors tossed our way. The images associated with social movements, where a large segment of society is now crying out to be heard, ignited by needless cruelty and indeed, murder of black men… A once-in-a-century pandemic that has crippled the globe and thrusted a lifetime worth of uncertainty, job-loss and social separation upon our shoulders - all at once and all on its own… A political condition that is as dysfunctional and divisive as America has ever known… Even the most skilled change experts are being tested by all that 2020 has unleashed!
Mother, mother… Everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh…but who are they to judge us…Simply ‘cause our hair is long?
Oh… you know we’ve got to find a way..to bring some understanding here today…
Be it change inside the workplace, or in any other segment of life, it’s all but a certainty that no matter the conditions that cause change; fear, doubt and judgment will surface. And when change hits a 9+ on the Richter Scale, as it has today, we often and regrettably see an equivalent spike in emotional reaction.
However, as Marvin Gaye implores, "we have got to find a way..." Historically, times of great disruption have often produced remarkable creativity, ingenuity and
innovation. We see this now as companies have quickly pivoted and embraced previously unseen business conditions that have emerged in the battle with Covid-19. The work-from-home movement has been on a steady, gradual upswing over the past decade, however, businesses around the world have largely proven that, be it self-induced, or, otherwise forced into it, work can get done away from an office and indeed, carried out with minimal to zero service/process interruption!
Socially, if we look intently, we can even see conversations taking place regarding the issue of race that have for too long, been put aside and disregarded. More, though still not enough, Americans are awakening to the need to listen and understand the realities of others... “Talk to me… So you can see… What’s going on…”
Within our own industry, conversations are taking place at an historical rate. The stunning rise and adoption of video-conferencing that has transformed the word “Zoom” into a ubiquitous phrase on par with “Google,” (Zoom & Google… Nouns, or Verbs?), coupled with the explosive use of social media, in particular LinkedIn, have conspired to set the stage for real-time discussion that is exposing more people, more thoughts and ideas and more information than ever before! In an ironic twist, forced separation has actually caused our industry to aggressively innovate in ways that have compressed the mobility market. Covid has brought mobility to a place where connecting and information-sharing, albeit virtually, is happening at a record-breaking pace. Risk-taking and vulnerability have reached levels many never thought we’d witness. In an age of massive uncertainty and unpredictability, our industry is “finding a way…” in an effort “to bring some understanding here today…”
50 years ago, Americans felt the full weight, emotionally and physically, of confusion, oppression and trauma. Today, we once again are forced to contend with a series of challenges none of us would ever choose to face. Change always comes at a cost…and so, it’s been heart-wrenching to witness lives being lost in the streets and in hospital beds. It’s been gut-wrenching to see jobs, by the millions, laid waste by the pandemic. Indeed, employee mobility has not been immune to the destructive forces that have hit businesses throughout the relocation space. Like a destructive tsunami, the impact associated with this season of change hits with brutal, unpredictable force and feels relentless.
What’s Going On? Well, none of us knows the full answer to that timeless question. Yet, I hope you agree that Marvin Gaye offers a dose of immortal insight. His words and the emotion embedded there-in, call us to a better way. They inspire us as they provide awareness and a pathway through the haze of uncertainty. In short, Marvin Gaye implores us all to listen, to communicate and to CONNECT!
My sincere hope is for societies around the world to become less judgmental and more connected. There are green shoots… and I hope those seedlings sprout into unimaginable beauty! I hope the harmful impact on humanity, in terms of physical and financial health, steadily decreases and gives way to new ideas and new opportunities. The employee mobility industry has always demonstrated high levels of resiliency and adaptability. The recent past had already ushered in waves of innovation and creative forms of partnering. 2020 has pushed the turbo button on it all. This pace of change largely spurred by Covid and all its far-reaching tentacles, can be dizzying at times. But again, I can see areas where in several corners of mobility we are pointed in a direction that will produce a variety of post-Covid success.
If you are reading this, I wish you much health and good fortune in the days ahead. I hope you are finding ways to effectively manage, personally and professionally, during these immensely trying times. In the days, weeks and months ahead, let’s keep talking... and let’s keep listening in ways that allow us to “see” what’s going on!
Wishing you all the best…