COVID-19 boosts fear, authoritarianism and industry analysts

It’s been several weeks since I posted on the blog. I, and most of the analysts and analyst relations people I’ve been speaking to, have never been under more pressure. Clients and colleagues, friends and family, have to come first, I’ve been posting less frequently on this blog since January. It’s been several weeks since I posted at all. But, as we roll into June, I think it’s worth making a few points.

We are in distress if we can’t trust authority figures. I trained in a psychoanalytic clinic, and that gives me my starting point: We are all physically separated, uncertain, atomized and surrounded by waves of emotions. The white Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck as he begged for air sparked a global wave of concern that reflected not only solidarity and anger over racism, but also growing feelings of disenchantment and distrust in many countries and layers of society. Those emotions can lead to many things, and one of these potential outcomes is a desire for trustworthy authority to take away the uncertainly and to locate the responsibility for choices. That’s part of the division of labour between children and parents, and it’s a key thread in everyone’s emotions. It’s part of the reason why distrust in political systems leads to trust in charismatic authoritarianism, for example in China, Turkey and the USA.

If we can’t trust our authorities, we’ll trust others. Managers are affected by emotions, the same as others. They are more anxious than in the dot.com boom or in the credit crunch. Things are not working as they should. It’s harder than ever to see what will happen. When things are predictable, the outcomes are also predictable. Right now, many managers are on fresh ground and are less certain than others. We look for other answers and other ways to address our concerns. Artists, bakers, counsellors, industry analysts, psychologists, priests, therapists, wine merchants, for example, have never been busier.

When uncertainly calls, seers answer. In the broadest sense of the word, seers are one of the oldest human professions. Seers are not only those who can see so clearly that they can see the future: they also have followers. This is a part of the magic and mystery of prophets which is shared by Magic Quadrants and Strategic Planning Assumptions. So, that means more demand for analysts. This week, when so many firms are losing staff, ARchitect reported 24 new analysts appointed at Aite, Forrester, Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, and Javelin.

Analysts and AR people are busier than ever. There’s never been a time when analysts can make more of an impact, since requests for analysts’ help are higher than ever. Analysts are travelling less, so they are taking more briefings and getting more information from AR people. As a result. AR people have never had a bigger opportunity to contribute to their businesses.

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