As a philosophy student ages ago, I understood the phrase “paradigm shift” more or less as it was intended to be used: that something fundamental has changed and there’s no possible way to go back to thinking of things the way they were. It’s like the shift from Aristotelian mechanics to classical mechanics to quantum mechanics; the geocentric understanding of the universe giving way — eventually and after much violence — to the heliocentric understanding; or even the invention of the printing press, which suddenly democratized literacy and threw traditional societal cultures for a loop.

You’ll notice that none of these paradigm shifts are about an exceptionally creative marketing campaign, an innovative piece of software, or a new website launch. Those things are exciting and important to businesses, but like so many of you, I used to cringe when the phrase “paradigm shift” was thrown around in a business context like that.

So, let me now anoint myself the arbiter of business speak and make the following pronouncement: You may now use the phrase “paradigm shift” to refer to how businesses must run following the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. You’re welcome.

All kidding aside, we at Forrester are done talking about a “return to normal” or even, to some extent, “a new normal.” And that’s because there’s nothing normal about the era in which businesses now find themselves — it’s all new, and it’s not going away.

If you’re reading this from the comfort of your office — home or otherwise — it’s likely that your business rose to the challenge in 2020. You accepted unfathomable risks. You found ways through unbreakable red tape. You digitized the entire analog, and you empathized with and served previously one-dimensional, anonymous customers. Congratulations and thank you!

Your prize: You get to keep doing all of that. At the same speed. Forever.

This is a paradigm shift. And to be out in front of your customers and competitors in this insanely paced, risk-riddled world, you must accept it.

Of course, acceptance is only the first step. At CX North America on June 7–9, we’re going to help customer experience professionals, B2C marketers, and digital business leaders embrace new risks, develop bold customer strategies, and execute faster than you ever thought possible. It’s our biggest customer experience conference of the year, and we hope to see you there. The paradigm has shifted, and the future of business is now. Let us help you stay out in front.