While COVID-19 is an acknowledged accelerant, we are accelerating towards a known destination. Remote learning and working should have evolved sooner; the digital foundation should have been a priority earlier; eCommerce should have exploded by now; and last-mile delivery is only just beginning. Although we may arrive at this destination sooner, acceleration now draws scenarios that are further out closer. Those that may have been reluctant to order online overcame their fears. The elderly on zoom calls is now a thing. With broader societal adoption comes an ability to more aggressively pursue innovative ideas that may have been further out. When combined with learning that comes from broader adoption, acceleration becomes a virtuous cycle.
Remote meetings are now commonplace, and it likely drives faster innovation in collaboration technologies. But it is the potential collapse of the longer-term horizon that gets very interesting. Catalysts have always been needed to move us forward, and COVID-19 is clearly a catalyst. So, while a video call with colleagues is nice, does a virtual meeting with holograms of your colleagues happen sooner? This Article via Stan Horaczek describes this scenario involving Microsoft’s new Mesh platform.
While that scenario may not be here tomorrow, shrinking innovation cycles and the reality of hybrid work models likely accelerates our path to realization. Envision a time when the worlds brightest minds are in your living room describing the latest medical procedures. Instead of virtual classes with an instructor, we are fighting a civil war battle from the kitchen table. Really being there accelerates our learning and retention. As we consider the shift to Right Brain characteristics in a world where creativity, compassion, and empathy are to be nurtured, what role does mixed reality play? Transporting us to places around the world that are struggling with hunger, disease, extreme weather, and war, is likely to raise our level of empathy. Reading about it is unlikely to do the same.
Organizations have learned that innovation can happen quickly. Human need is likely to exploit our learning towards a faster realization of possible futures. These futures till now have existed in the scenarios that futurists paint. But necessity has a funny way of advancing the art of the possible. Acceleration was already testing society’s ability to keep up, the pandemic amplified the problem. What we see accelerating on the short-term horizon was inevitable, but looking beyond the horizon might be the better place to see the true impact of COVID-19.