OK, kids, get out your dictionary — who am I kidding, hit the spell check button — and look up this one. It may not show up…but it should, especially this year.
Prospicience, at least as my friendly online word-of-the-day feature defines it, is “the action of looking forward.” Or, more succinctly, having foresight. Boy, do we need some serious prospicience right about now.
We’re already weeks into the new year but more accurately we’re about to mark one year into the pandemic era and that’s really what’s important here. A year ago at this time we were just hearing about some vague, mysterious disease somewhere in an unfamiliar part of China. We had no idea what it was all about. A flu that would make us sick…but that’s about it? Something that might disrupt products coming from China…but that’s about it? A thing that really didn’t mean all that much to all of us living here in America…and that was about it?
We can look back with incredulous outrage at how naïve we were and how ill-prepared we were for what was about to hit us. We can also remember how long it took so many people to understand what was happening…not to mention some people who still don’t get it.
We all could have used some good old fashioned prospicience this time a year ago but more importantly we still need a healthy dose of the stuff now. Just about everything in our lives has changed and no doubt will continue to change for the foreseeable future. How we prepare ourselves for those changes will largely define both the quality of our lives and the success of our businesses.
This is no less true than the specifics of doing business in home furnishings. The retail side of things is so different than it was that anybody who clings to the old business models — how can people still say they are not sure about selling online? — will probably not be around when the pandemic finally recedes. Likewise if you’re a supplier and haven’t done a top-to-bottom rethink of how and where you make your products you could be in for some serious shocks. Depending on the usual sources for the usual products is not going to cut it. The sofas and sheets and frying pans that the industry sells may not be all that different but everything that goes into them most certainly is.
Unfortunately there is no roadmap for dealing with all of this. We can’t just pull out the plan from the last time this happened. We need to have the foresight to try to understand what’s next.
In another tragedy on a much smaller scale in history when the Apollo space capsule caught on fire during testing in the 1960s and three astronauts were killed, a review of what went wrong identified many of the problems involved. But in the final report, one other element was mentioned: a failure of imagination. The folks involved just couldn’t have imagined the circumstances that created the failure.
We all need to imagine scenarios that might have been unimaginable just one year ago.
We all need prospicience.
Award-winning Journalist & Consultant for the retailing and home furnishings industries with extensive business media experience in both fields.