Have you found that your reflection and intention-setting rituals associated with the New Year have continued a lot longer than usual this year? This should not be a surprise to any of us as 2020 was one of the most challenging—and transformative—years in our lifetimes. But still, it’s early February and I am still processing last year—in particular regarding our experience at IONS.
There is no question in my mind that the urgency thrust upon us last March by the pandemic catalyzed one of the most important organizational and cultural shifts in IONS history. While the immediate impact of the pandemic was very painful (the forced shutdown of our beloved EarthRise Retreat Center and the resulting layoffs), there were profound moments of grace, inspiration, and innovation that propelled us to rally together with a shared laser-sharp focus to “awaken the noetic now” in service to the world.
In the midst of contemplating this warp-speed evolution, a perfectly timed article appeared and immediately caught my attention: “Sustaining COVID-era urgency for the long run.” I sat up straight with that feeling of deep resonance and eagerness to dive in. In the article, international consultancy PWC proposes seven steps to ensure that organizations such as IONS retain the constructive elements of fast decision-making and other forms of “pivot” that emerged during the pandemic. The alignment of these seven components with our own experience here at IONS is uncanny and underscores our opportunity to permanently embrace our new way of being:
1. Identify and focus on the big issues that matter most to your organization.
At IONS: We determined very quickly that our most important response to the pandemic would be to increase access to noetic sciences for as many people as possible worldwide. We accomplished this via radically scaled-up online programming and acceleration of core research initiatives including Noetic SignatureTM.
2. Engage a lot of people, then make rapid choices and execute quickly.
At IONS: We immediately convened a cross-functional and multi-department team (Experience & Engagement, Science, and Development) to plan and execute the online program strategy listed above—we moved quickly and collaboratively, and the Board of Directors was right there supporting us with time, treasure, talent, and ties.
3. Revisit critical decisions often, checking performance metrics and making fixes quickly.
At IONS: we mined data with the curiosity of determined explorers—email open rates, program registration and participation rates, new memberships, donations—to continuously improve our messaging, outreach, programmatic content, and delivery.
4. Think about unanticipated consequences to society and the environment you operate in.
At IONS: We were concerned that our shift to free programming, while ensuring accessibility to people of all socio-economic levels, might create a challenging expectation for the future. However, what we have discovered is that our ConnectIONS Live “Free Friday” programs are gifts not only to the world, but to IONS itself as thousands of new people have been introduced to our work. Over 17,500 people participated in our online programs between late March and December 31. Many have become paying members and major donors. We could never have anticipated that Free Fridays might be here to stay!
5. Engage in parallel processes, developing solutions to imperatives quickly.
At IONS: For the first time in recent memory, IONS implemented experiential programming and fundraising in a tightly coordinated parallel process, resulting in very successful fiscal year-end and calendar year-end fundraising campaigns. Also in parallel, our Science team accelerated development of Noetic SignatureTM research project—which is destined to produce crucial new insights and tools for people to deepen their access to the noetic.
6. Take care of people and adapt to their work preferences.
At IONS: Extensive care was given to accommodate staff preferences regarding where each person’s optimal work could be achieved during this extended period of primarily virtual work. Some employees were allowed to work on campus provided that all COVID-related protocols were followed. Further, for the entire staff team, we increased online opportunities to come together as a team—both professionally and informally. While we miss being all together as a team on campus, we have been able to not only maintain—but expand—our highly connected and collaborative culture.
7. Manage pace.
At IONS: this was a tough one as the intense pace of work continued well into what would typically be slower periods such as July and August. We created intentional moments of “pause” by celebrating major accomplishments and encouraging vacation time, even with the pandemic-related travel limitations. All that said, many are thriving in this new dynamic, fast-moving environment. Our opportunity now is to preserve the positive aspects of heightened pace, while ensuring that our teams stay healthy and balanced.
As we look further into this unfolding new year, may we continue to respond with a spirit of service to the rapidly evolving world we call home. As we emphasize in the Noetic Leadership Initiative, leading from interconnection and trusting those moments of inspiration can help us tremendously in times of great challenge—and great opportunity.
I look forward to your comments and invite you to read the PWC article in its entirety: Business Resilience: Sustaining Covid-Era Urgency (pwc.com)
About the Author
Claire Lachance serves as the CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where she has championed strategic clarity, healthy culture, and operations grounded in integrity and best practices. Claire earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA magna cum laude in Economics from Tufts University. Representing IONS around the world, Claire is passionate about the expansion of Noetic Leadership as a vital tool for addressing the profound opportunities and challenges of our times.