The stresses created by the pandemic, legacy problems, and accelerating change are creating a new environment where all of us will need to become lifetime learners to thrive. The complications created in this new world will also require a proactive learning approach where we lean into and learn through problems to create breakthrough solutions.

We face a pandemic, a sputtering economy, the aftermath of an intense election, social unrest, and a slew of structural problems ignored for decades like infrastructure issues and escalating health care costs. It’s a daunting list — especially when most of us are just trying to make it through this moment.

All of this turmoil creates incredible change. Technology adoption accelerated as work-at-home became a viable option. More older workers left the workforce as many decided to “hang it up” rather than learn new skills. We have 11 million workers still on the sidelines with diminishing recovery prospects. Oh yes, and the pandemic rages on — and will continue to rage — until vaccination builds our collective immunity.

These changes mean we will never return to our old definitions of normal because the pandemic revealed and magnified fundamental issues and divides facing Wisconsin. There is a wide divide between the urban and rural parts of our state, with unique challenges in each that must be addressed for all of us to thrive. Technology gaps separate the people and organizations that can and cannot compete in today’s markets. Uneven availability of broadband and other key technologies limits the potential of broad swaths of our state.

These issues are even more difficult to address in a system that doesn’t work for everyone. Statistics suggest that the fundamental American dream — the ability to go as far as your talent will take you — is on life support, while multiple heartbreaking episodes reveal the systemic racism alive in our state. Somewhere along the way we lost the feeling that we’re all in this together and replaced it with “You’re on your own — good luck!”

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