• Market & Regulatory Insights
    • Emerging trends

Thriving in the never normal

  • Article

As AI accelerates technological disruption, a serial entrepreneur discusses what companies must do to survive and thrive in an everchanging world.

The post-pandemic world did not return to the “Old Normal” but instead has shifted into the era of the “Never Normal”, a term coined by Peter Hinssen, the founder of nexxworks, to describe a constantly changing business environment.

With seismic shocks in technological, social, ecological and geopolitical areas, Mr. Hinssen, who is also an entrepreneur, an advisor and an author, gave a keynote speech at HSBC’s Global Investment Summit on how companies can thrive amid these paradigm shifts.

Mr. Hinssen pointed out that we are in an era where “digital stops being special and becomes normal”, changing the way people connect and live.

Game-changing technological revolutions are nothing new. History is full instances where disruptive technology changed the status quo – such as the industrial revolution, the rise of telecommunications and the more recent advent of digital technology. They have all created new norms, typically taking around two to three decades to fully pan out.

Now, however, technological disruption is happening much faster, said Mr. Hinssen. “Which means that in your lifetime, you're not going to see one big technological revolution. You might see two or three. The next generation, maybe even four or five revolutions.”

Going forward, Mr. Hinssen believed more seismic shocks will be created by a powerful cocktail of data, AI and automation, which can be “quite threatening or scary”, especially to old market incumbents that cannot keep up with radical change.

“The big question is, how are you going to keep up? Are you in touch with all these changes?” he asked.

He described the opportunities that are available in the Never Normal, which is characterised by its nonlinear development, fluidity, hyper-connectivity and fast movement.

The fact that the world is highly fluid and shifting faster means that we have to be more agile to react. He listed the pandemic as an example, as it shows how fundamental change can happen very quickly – such as the way we use traditional offices, due to the adoption of work from home practices.

In the New Normal, linear thinking is less valuable than in the past. What is needed now is what Mr. Hinssen calls “left and right thinking”. He cited Amazon’s swift move to launch a pharmacy during the middle of the pandemic an example of looking left and right, not just thinking straight ahead.

Living in the age of networks, timing and vision can be more important than the actual technology used for transformation. Pre-emptive moves are crucial, he said. “Now you have to start thinking about what's ahead while you still have the runway. You have to innovate before it’s too late.”

But the move should come with a long-term vision, instead of acting with what he called “yesterday’s logic”.

“How often do you see yesterday's logic being used in a world that is moving faster than ever before?”

AI has become mainstream extremely quickly, ChatGPT reached one million users in just five days. This is creating concern that people will be replaced, causing unemployment.

Mr. Hinssen however, remains optimistic. Although some things will be done better by AI, humans have the vital role to frame what AI will do. “That’s why I believe in the combination of men plus machines. What we have to do is to reassess our roles,” he said.

That said, more volatility is guaranteed in the Never Normal world. Companies should focus on what he called “the Day After Tomorrow”: new ideas, new opportunities, new technologies, new business models. The companies that will become what he called “the Phoenixes”, companies that can successfully reinvent themselves.

As long as a company has a sense of urgency, a clear vision on how to combine the old and the new, the right mindset, a shared direction, and support for the innovators, it will likely be in a strong position to thrive in the constantly changing new era.

HSBC Global Investment Summit

The inaugural HSBC Global Investment Summit took place on the 8 to 10 April 2024 in Hong Kong, bringing together over 2,000 delegates to discuss the global trends and topics shaping our world.

Need help?

For more information, please contact your HSBC representative.