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> I think I think …

VIEWPOINTS – The Representor, FALL 2021

by Chuck Tanzola, CPMR
The Fusion Sourcing Group Inc.
ERA Chairman of the Board
ctanzola@fusionsourcing.com

The leaves are starting to change color, my trip to the office is taking a little longer as I follow frequently stopping school busses along the way, and despite highly researched draft strategies, my multiple Fantasy Football teams are all underperforming – I think, I think … life is returning to normal. Or is it?

What is “normal?” Is there a “new normal?” Do we even recognize “normal?” These are significant questions dominating a lot of conversations and many of my thoughts. Today, paying homage to former Sports Illustrated writer, Peter King, who wrote a regular column titled, “Ten Things I Think I Think,” I’d like to share a few other things I think I think as well.

I think I think that the last two years have been energy-draining, and by and large, people are fatigued and ready for a return to something normal. The unusual circumstances we are living in have lasted far longer and taken more twists and turns than anyone could have predicted. People are tired of pandemics and variants. They are tired of not meeting face-to-face, and not understanding the fluctuating rules when they do. They are tired of constantly changing “supply chain issues” — both personally and professionally. They are tired of trying to understand Force Majeure and what it really means. They are tired of division and vitriol. They are just collectively weary. What will change that? How will we emerge from this protracted period? Where will a renewing of our collective energy come from?

When EDS 2020 was canceled, the general reaction was acknowledgment with acceptance. In 2021, ERA changed its annual conference from an in-person meeting to our first fully virtual conference; and it was a resounding success from all accounts. It felt like obstacles had been conquered — victory! When EDS 2021 was postponed and eventually canceled, the sentiment I heard expressed was resignation with understanding. ERA recently held its first Virtual Sales Training event, built on the same virtual platform as the conference, and it too was reported as a highly successful event. So, while I think I think that virtual events are here to stay and can be very effective, nothing is more energizing than meeting in person. When will that be normal again?

I think I think that it is easy to confuse doing things with getting things done. Everyone I speak with tells me they are very busy, and I feel it in my schedule as well. The events on my calendar are color-coded by category, and it is a veritable rainbow of activity after activity. Yet, I sometimes wonder how much productivity there is? I wonder how customers, whose engineers have not been in the plant for months, are getting new products designed, tested and brought to market? I think I think they are not as prolific at it as pre-pandemic, and I wonder what the long-term consequences of that will be?

I think I think the many high-tech tools that have been created to simplify communications have also simply made it more challenging, and expectations are much higher. “By the way, I just sent you a text as a reminder to look at the email I sent you, confirming the VM I left after I hadn’t heard back on the LinkedIn InMail message, which I sent an hour ago. Did you get them? Sorry, I was on a Teams meeting and online chat simultaneously.” An exaggeration? Perhaps. A shade of reality? No doubt in my mind.

I think I think that muscle memory applies to more than just the golf swing. When you don’t do something for a while, you get out of a rhythm. Take travel for example. I’m starting to see that slowly increase, and next week I’ll be heading out on a trip … I wonder what I’ll forget to pack this time? Or, for that matter, driving. Did I miss the memo that all the rules of the road and regular practices of automobile safety — like turn signals, obeying stop signs and lights, and staying between the lines on the highway — have become optional? My empirical observation is that the general population has forgotten how. I wonder what else we’ve gotten out of practice on?

This is not intended to be a rant (though maybe it sounds that way), just some of my random observations. My final thought — despite everything, fundamentally, I think it is still a good time to be alive … consider the alternative.

In closing, predicting when we will actually gather in-person again has become less accurate than weather forecasting; however, at the risk of missing it once again, but feeling optimistic, I look forward to seeing everyone in Austin at the 2022 ERA Conference in February — “A New Day, a New Way.” As always, I can be reached at ctanzola@fusionsourcing.com and welcome your comments – what do you think you think?

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