Lessons we've learnt from 2020

Lessons We’ve Learnt from 2020

In a year defined by challenge, adversity, and seemingly insurmountable crisis, 2020 has also provided opportunities for change, for innovation, and for growth. 


It’s allowed us time to reflect and think deeply about what we do and why we do it. It’s also given us the space to consider how we can continue to make a difference in the lives of our clients, and how we can use our business to contribute to a better society. 


This year has been a reset button for us all; a chance to question the way we do things, to question what elements of our businesses–and our lives–aren’t working, and how we can carve out better organisations post-pandemic. 


Here are some of the lessons we’ll carry with us through the next year and beyond. 


01 Community first 


Community is at the heart of everything we do, and this year has highlighted the importance of our communities more than ever. Of building a collective of like-minded people working together towards a common goal. 2020 has also emphasised the inequalities we face in our societies, bringing our modern day problems and challenges to a sharp focus. It’s allowed us to see that business, life, and society are all interconnected, that we have a duty to one another, and it’s challenged us to think about how we can contribute towards these problems as a business. 


When we created Ashton McGill, we envisioned building a tribe of people dedicated to helping one another, to supporting one another. A place where we could connect, collaborate, and share ideas, and where we could actively challenge one another. Lockdown has emphasised the importance of these support networks more than ever. This year has come with its fair share of difficulties, but it’s challenged us to foster and engage our communities in new ways, and to mobilise those communities as a force for good. 


This year has also seen its fair share of challenges and setbacks for the small business community– challenges of uncertainty, instability, and worry. Community gives us somewhere to turn, a sea of open arms to support us, and helping hands to guide us through the storm. Community gives us a sense of belonging in a world that feels so suddenly and radically unstable.


As we look to the future, these communities will remain our number one priority, although likely functioning in different ways. 


02 Ask questions


Why do things have to be the way they are? How can we do things better? How can we challenge the status quo to create meaningful transformation? 


We’re a team of avid thinkers and change-makers, permanently driven by hows and whys. 


For us, this year has emphasised the importance of questioning the world around us, of never taking things at face value, and of getting to the root of a problem. Something we naturally do within our day-to-day lives, this curiosity has permeated every facet of our work and our lives. For us, this year, all roads have led to why. 


We believe everyone could benefit from stopping to ask why more often. To stop talking and to start really listening. To reflect on our own causes and purposes for being, and on the causes and purposes of those we are looking to help, because whys matter. Whys are the heart and soul of our businesses, whys are the reason behind everything we say and do, and whys are our hidden ammunition for making a difference in the world. 


Every question we have asked this year, every problem we have tried to solve, has all circled back to the same overarching questions: how can we build better businesses, better teams, better lives? These are the questions we’re looking to solve for ourselves, for our clients, and for the wider communities around us. 


As designers, we’re fascinated by problems and how we can dream up innovative ways to solve them, driven by an ethos of better. Curiosity has been our guiding tenet throughout this rollercoaster year, alongside a deep-rooted desire to make a lasting difference. 


03 Always lead with purpose 


We’re passionate about helping people build innovative business models and human-centred organisations that stand the test of time. 2020 has been an ever-evolving situation, a time of shift and movement, evolution and growth. It’s been our job to offer our community stability and reassurance amidst a sea of uncertainty. 


Much of our thought from this year has been driven by another set of core questions: how can we design the future of work to be more fair, more fulfilling and more fruitful? How can we embed our purpose into everything we do? 


When we lead with purpose, what we do no longer matters, what’s more important is why we do it. 


Leading with purpose is a pandemic-proof mindset– as long as we focus on doing only the things that further our vision, it doesn’t matter what those things might be, whether it’s running a business, starting a charity, or embarking on an entirely new adventure. In times of uncertainty, our whats may change, but our why will always stay the same. 


04 Redefine what business can be


This year has enabled us to think differently about the purpose and the potential of business. 


Traditionally, businesses were seen as hives of industry, centres of commerce existing to line pockets and fuel the world’s economies. The relics of this industrial mantra still linger within the organisations of today, the quest for endless growth still seen as the benchmark of success. 


But what if we shifted our view of enterprises as money-making machines, into change-making machines? What if we considered how businesses can help to make the world a better place? What if we invested in utilising our skills, time, and resources to benefit our wider communities? What if, instead of maximising our profits, we maximise the benefits we can create as an organisation? 


For us, Powered by Positive has been one of many shifts in that direction. Starting as a series of events, we’re building our platform into a fully fledged community fund, centred on people, purpose and ideas, a place to collaborate, to connect, and to support those in need. A platform that enables businesses to create change. 


2020 has its fair share of problems: climate change, pollution, deprivation, a pandemic, and economic decline, but businesses can be part of the solution. It’s just up to us to work together and figure out how. 


Looking ahead 


As 2020 draws to a close, we’re using this time to reflect on the positives and the setbacks from the last year, what we can learn from them, and how we can use them to create lasting and meaningful change. 


We believe that building bridges to the future all starts with collaboration. As one door closes and another door opens, let’s work to bring together a range of people and ideas to co-create change and carve out a better future.