Final Lessons from 2020

Looking back on 2020 and learning as many lessons as possible is a very worthwhile exercise for all of us. At the beginning of this series, nearly three months ago, I paraphrased a famous quote from the Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’, and asked “what has 2020 ever done for us?”

As this is the last of this series I can say that the answer to the question is that it has taught us very much indeed. These lessons have not come at no cost, and for some, that cost has been exceptionally high, but the lessons themselves should prove to be extremely valuable, both for 2021 and, indeed, for all of us to carry into the future.

Businesses, small and large, have taken a very close look at their business model and adapted them in every possible way in order to survive and maximise their profitability. In some cases, this has meant totally pivoting the businesses. But these changes have not all been about adapting the business model to focus on profitability, because at the very core of adapting has been the focus on the customer; not just about providing what they want, but in also proving that the business actually cares about its customers and values them.

This last point has been displayed in all areas of marketing and other messaging, as well as in the visible aspects of the way that many businesses have interacted with customers, both physically and otherwise.

The relationship between office based workers and employers has also changed fundamentally. Before 2020 the majority had a reluctance to allow most staff to work from home, but the necessities of this year have shown not only is it possible from an IT and every other perspective, but it can also have many advantages for the employee and, thereby, for the business as a whole. Another lesson then, is that employees want more flexibility regarding where they work, and businesses look set to allow this, or even to demand it themselves from their staff.

Many aspects of life and business that were in the process of changing before 2020 have been very rapidly accelerated. These would include the move towards online sales and payments, and a reduction in the use of cash. But amongst the many transformations, the one that really stands out in the business world is the use of video conferencing for meetings and events, whether this is on Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, or one of the myriad of other more specialist platforms. However, whilst some might disagree, virtual networking can never be as effective as real, face to face, networking, and many of us are desperate that 2021 will enable real events to happen once more.

Queen Elizabeth II very famously said in 1992 that it was her ‘annus horribilis’ when it seemed that it had been such a horrible year for her, including the massive fire at Windsor castle. There is no doubt that 2020 has been an annus horribilis for millions of people around the world but, hopefully, the lessens that we have all learned this year will serve us well in the future.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail, is not taking risks”. As we all know, 2020 has certainly been rapidly changing, and in ways none of us could have imagined in 2019. As this is the final article in the ‘Lessons Learned in 2020’ series I will leave you with one final thought for the year, Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. And so it is with 2020 – accept that in business we need to take risks and to have courage, but once we weave the lessons of the last year into our knowledge we are better placed in the future than we would otherwise have been.


in British English


to prosper or cause to prosper vigorously and rapidly