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The Instinct Olympics (January 2021 Business Results)

2021 has begun. We can say that this start of the year is unprecedented. Nobody has ever experienced something like this in their careers, no matter what sectors they have worked in. If I had to find the right analogy, to most of us, it feels like when a national team starts to compete at a high-stakes international tournament. Now that it is 2021, we should not be petty. The Olympics of business have officially begun.

We will see.

Individual athletes and national teams do not automatically qualify for the Olympic Games. To be able to participate in the quadrennial event, they have to win significant competitions and have excellent qualifying times. There are sports where world championships and continental championships are of utmost importance as well. What is more, in some sports those championships are more prestigious than the Olympics, but these are few and far between. Most athletes train four years to prove what they are capable of, and they only have a few days to show their talent to the world. Such terms do not characterise the world of business, and 2021 will not be about the past four years. That’s what we can tell ourselves, at least. Results will not reflect the amount of work done in the past four years. In business, we do not only have a couple of days to prove what we are capable of, but months, and now a whole year. We should also bear in mind that it will not be the last four years that decide our fate in 2021, but our ways of thinking and business strategies following the 2008 crisis. Of course, this does not apply to the owners of new businesses. However, it is a crucial factor whether they built up their business correctly at the beginning, or just followed the current trends, and whether they were in the right place at the right time. We have to be aware of these facts because this year will answer the questions connected to them, whether we asked them or not. Forecasts, professional reports, and assessments of market research companies are available. However, rational businesspeople know that although they are more than simple guesses, we cannot consider them to be facts because people have never experienced anything like the global “lockdown”, so they cannot know the consequences. That is why we should be careful when applying these forecasts.

We should listen to our instincts

Successful businesspeople have strong instincts and become increasingly successful by learning to follow them, and this fact has received increased attention as of late. What is more, they can even follow these instincts and develop rapidly. It is always a tough question as to how much we should listen to our instincts and consider objective facts. In non-crisis periods, when business is smooth and calculable, we need to draw on facts, while in complete chaos, our instincts dominate. Where are we, exactly, in 2021? Of course, not in a rest period. Nevertheless, we cannot say that the current period is absolutely chaotic because that better describes 2020. By now, we have data and experience, even if not about the “reopening” from such a situation, but about COVID-19. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the year, we are still closer to listening to our instincts and deprioritising objective facts. I know that encouraging businesspeople to listen to their emotions regarding their businesses and careers does not track traditional knowledge. What can we do about it? Professional managers collected the necessary information and facts in 2020, so objectivity was present. However, they also prepared themselves for the fact that they would have to follow 2021 intuitively and take a flexible approach to any planned direction. All in all, we can say that the Olympics have started for businesspeople. The Olympic flame is lit, and the qualification tournaments are underway. Now we can assess whether preparation was appropriate or not. Everything is shown in the “results” of January. It might be strange, but this past month has shown more than it usually does. Intervention and changing tactics are still possible, but we also have to accept it if we see that the whole strategy of preparation has failed. We have to recognise it now, at the beginning of the year, because there is one major difference between the Olympics of businesspeople and athletes. Businesspeople have the chance to restart, even the preparation. We can start the “games” all over again and make a new start with a different kind of preparation. However, we have to do it in time because 2021 is the year of the Olympics for us as well.