In Omnia Paratus
Truth Well Told (TWT)

In Omnia Paratus

"Enough new normal and on with the show, I say - in omnia paratus."

By Taazima Kala-Essack


I do not speak Latin, nor do I have any desire to learn what many may say is a dead language. However, for someone with a true obsession with modern day vernacular and languages, this is a phrase I love more than I person really ought to … love Latin phrases. It’s embarrassing, really.

Of course, I am choosing to ignore I first heard it some 15 years ago in a slightly too wholesome family show by Warner Brothers (show name omitted for fear of judgement). Said show featured the phrase bandied about by spoiled rich kids in a nonsensical secret society amongst the Yale elite as they leapt off high rises in ballgowns and umbrellas; but I digress.

In omnia paratus, literally translated to ‘prepared for anything’ is one of those carpe diem turns of phrase that somehow manage to ignite a sense of fiery passion, even if only because it sounds so mystically foreign.

It is about living for the moment in many ways, throwing caution to the wind and simply taking a leap of faith (or a slightly calculated risk if that’s your fancy) as and when needed. An example of an arguably dead language or not, however, it has a very real bearing on all of us today; largely because of its notable lack of application, literally and figuratively so.

United in the strangest of circumstances only a global pandemic can bring, individuals, families and businesses now spend every waking day watching almost helplessly as COVID-19 continues waging its own veritable war on the world.

Reports are coming in of cases of the bubonic plague and a potentially new pandemic of even greater respiratory distress challenges in China, and our news now resembles that horrid rowing scene from Ben-Hur. Enter the leaping with umbrellas, in the wholly proverbial sense of course.

Creative sectors the world over are amongst the hardest hit (amongst, not singularly so) and markets like Botswana, that do not manifest the creative sector’s potential as a veritable engine of the economy or at the very least commercialised and commoditised in the most sustainable of ways, amongst the hardest of the hardest hit.

Communications budgets have been cut with a painful and blunt guillotine, the ability to hold physical engagements and activations feel near obsolete and people are reevaluating entire communications and marketing strategies for the foreseeable future.

And yet filling our daily arsenal of vocabulary are ‘unprecedented times’, ‘new normal’, ‘business unusual’ and ‘thinking outside the box.’ Aren’t we tired of such tired perspective? For a sector fighting for its existence, there has to be some greater and more demonstrable proof in the proverbial pudding of our agility and ruthless will to survive and thrive than simply stating so.

Enough new normal and on with the show, I say - in omnia paratus. Communications consultancies in the UK have, for example, begun flirting with the idea of a 4-day work week. Managed responsibly and with clear and well-articulated purpose, the results have been overwhelmingly positive, as the 4-day week sees increased productivity, balanced by greater peace of mind, mindfulness time and unwinding over the extra free day provided. Working from home, in fact across industries, equally sees opportunities to do more with less.

The jury remains out for many, locally, on whether working from home presents a productivity boost or a productivity drain, and yet, once again, our friends across the oceans have been practicing this for years before the current pandemic, with albeit varied levels of success, and yet success, nonetheless.

In his ‘Go Ahead, Tell Your Boss You Are Working from Home’ TEDxStanford, Nicholas Bloom unpacked more on a study conducted to gauge the effectiveness of working from home on productivity.

Bloom helped design a study where 500 employees were divided into two groups: a control group who continued working at the office, and a group of volunteers working from home, each in a private room at home, job security for at least the next 6 months, and reliable broadband access.

The two-year study showed a notable productivity boost, equivalent to a full day's work. Those working from home cited increased concentration, employee attrition decreased by 50%, shorter breaks, fewer sick days were observed, less time off and US$2,000 per employee saved on rent by reducing the amount of office space. Feeling somewhat isolated was also noted, though with many an option to address this.

Source: Unsplash

Similarly, according to Forbes, ‘Work life balance has been shattered for many, but savvy employees are putting the pieces back together in innovative and surprising ways. According to survey data compiled from 100 million data points across 30,000 users, (…) team members are making the most out of their home office.’ Telephone calls are up 230%, email is up 57% and chat is up 9%, the study found.

While I am not suggesting we shut shop and send everyone home, there is something to be said for demonstrating true agility and readiness for mobilising when the circumstances warrant it. Ready for anything, nimble enough to make it work, and committed enough to plan ahead, with innovation at the very core of all that we do, can do and should do.

A great example is that of Rwanda. The report Creative Industries in Rwanda: Digital Paths to Global Markets highlights a number of inspirational case studies on how micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Rwanda’s music and film sectors are selling digitally to a global market, finding new routes to consumers and overcoming challenges to show agility in action.

According to the report, ‘The digital revolution has vastly expanded the frontiers of the creative industries, turning it into a sector that generates $2.25 trillion of revenues globally. This is comparable to the gross domestic product of Brazil or India.’

Further, the World Economic Forum notes that ‘Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations around the globe have demonstrated remarkable agility, changing business models literally overnight: setting up remote-work arrangements; offshoring entire business processes to less-affected geographies; initiating multi-company cooperation to redeploy furloughed employees across sectors.

In each situation, the urgency for results prevailed over traditional bureaucratic responses.’ The unity and humanity are without question. The world has, for the most part, come together in the most heartwarming of manners.

However, is this enough without any real action to safeguard our creative sector futures? How confidently can we say the same for our own markets as Rwanda or those in Europe and the US?

Source: Unsplash

COVID-19 or not, are we agile enough, determined enough and equipped enough? As with anything, there is room for improvement, no doubt, and we are likely not too far off from changing our current reality and our ability to adapt better. Perhaps it is just a more daring and action-led approach we need to inculcate; a culture of strategic ‘doing.’ If for no other reason than bravery and boldness stand to breed innovation, we need to get doing.

Survival of the fittest is very much in play and, verbomania aside, an in omnia paratus state of mind ought to feature much more on our daily tongues, our ways of thinking, and how we act to change the current status quo.

Grab an umbrella, and leap!

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