One of the perks of my role is the interaction I have with leaders around the world. Thursday of this week, I had the pleasure of participating in a virtual round table hosted by C-Level. The topic was “Rehearsing Post-Pandemic Futures.” I did 30 minutes of presentation which included poll questions. It was followed by 30 minutes of Q&A. I want to share some of the insights of the session over a series of posts – starting with a poll that we positioned at the start of the presentation, and then again at the end.
If I’ve learned anything from my global interactions, its that there are very smart people out there that have much to contribute to any discussion. I have found the richest insight and foresight has come from interaction in both the physical and digital world. Participation in polls, comments on social posts, and interaction with leaders around the world is worth more than any amount of research I can do.
With that said, I am doing a virtual presentation today for a leadership audience in Europe. I have several polls that I will use as part of the session. As a post session activity, I am launching several additional polls through this post. Please participate and provide your thoughts on a post-pandemic world.
A recent Article by Bryan Walsh explores the human development enabled by a post-world war two order. To avoid a repeat of the turbulence of the Thirty Year period that began in 1915, this post-war order was established. Institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations (UN), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were formed. Despite an occasional spike of violence, the article reports that the absolute number of people killed in war and conflict has been declining since 1946.
In my ongoing search for signals that point to potential futures, I both stumble upon great insight, or am made aware of it. When it’s the latter, I wrestle with how much to share. I use the value of the insight as my decision criteria, and in the case of this smart city infographic, I am compelled to share. However, this insight (and all other signals) must be viewed through the lens of the current pandemic. What, if anything, is impacted as a result of changes in human behavior? For example, will the projections of mass urbanization hold, or will fear of living in dense areas reverse that trend – essentially serving as an obstacle? Does the city revenue shortfall accelerate the march towards a Next Generation of Productivity? Does a growing appreciation for science shine a light on climate change, thereby accelerating the focus on sustainability?
It’s easy to view the current crisis as a catalyst for change. Lying beneath the surface are signals that major change is required, and when crisis emerges, hope for that change emerges with it. In most cases however, that change never materializes. The last two months have brought countless predictions of what is to come. While we need to consider the low percentage of successful post-crisis predictions in the past, two trends look likely to materialize: accelerated digital transformation, and a rapid path to automation.
COVID-19 continues to expose pre-existing issues. While our human development has undeniably advanced through each phase of the industrial revolution, more work remains to be done. The first industrial revolution delivered mechanization – and yet 600 million people still do not benefit from it. The second revolution brought us sanitation, clean water, and electricity, and yet 3.6 billion people still lack one or more of those innovations. The third revolution brought us the internet and all things digital – and yet 3.7 billion people do not have access to the Internet. This Article by Douglas Broom states that the majority live in poorer countries, where the need to spread information about how to combat COVID-19 is most urgent. The issue was there, now it is likely to get more attention.
In an earlier post on a Post-Pandemic Society, I took a look back in history to a period a century ago. That journey focused on similarities to our current day. That same post summarized a post-pandemic future as viewed through the lens of several global thinkers. Although history provides a guide, and prognosticators a point of view, pandemic Implications will evolve over years and across multiple domains. How the world Responds is yet to be determined – and predictions of major change after past crisis have largely been off the mark. How then do we find the signal through the noise? By Connecting a lot of Dots on an on-going basis.
In a recent Forbes Article authored by Stephen Wunker, he uses the principles of innovation adoption to test the stickiness of behavioral changes driven by COVID-19. He applies six tests of a new behavior to see what will last. He states that not all six factors need to be met for a behavior change to persist, but the mutually reinforcing nature of the factors create a stronger impact as more get involved. He applies this framework to assess potential commercial change for the Life Science industry.
This recent Article describes those things that will change forever according to 30 top experts. Before I dive into that, a significant word of caution. In an Article authored by Rob Walker, he states that most post-pandemic predictions will be totally wrong. While he stresses that thoughtful speculation about the future helps us cope with the present and identify potential challenges and opportunities, history tells us that most predictions will be wrong. In looking back at predictions post 9/11 and the great recession, Mr. Walker provides supporting evidence for this statement.
A general theme throughout my posts on COVID-19 is that many of the cracks that the pandemic has exposed were already there. This theme is described eloquently by Economist Tyler Cowen in his work on The Great Reset. He uses a metaphor of canaries in coal mines to describe the warning signals that represent greater and broader stress. In the past week, I’ve seen multiple references to dead canaries knee deep in coal mines. In a recent New York Times Article authored by Neil Irwin he echoes this sentiment:
“But one lesson of these episodes of economic tumult is that those surprising ripple effects tend to result from longstanding unaddressed frailties. Crises have a way of bringing to the fore issues that are easy to ignore in good times.”
Amy Webb joined Daniel Levitt on his Inside The Newsroom podcast to discuss various aspects of COVID-19 pandemic. Amy is a quantitative futurist. She interprets data to help governments and businesses plan for the future. She’s written three books — The Big Nine, The Signals Are Talking and Data, a Love Story. In 2006 she founded the Future Today Institute, her consultancy firm that models what the future might look like. Amy also teaches an MBA course on strategic foresight at NYU, is a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center, cofounder of Spark Camp and contributing editor and tech columnist and Inc. Magazine, among a host of other notable positions and achievements.
Enjoy the Podcast.
Prior to the pandemic taking over all our cycles, I was focused on assessing how society would react to several emerging scenarios. Using polls, I asked questions about connecting our brains to the Internet, reuniting with a deceased loved one, or attending a hologram concert of a deceased artist. I was suprised by the high percentage of respodents that were against these emerging scenarios. Please participate in those Polls, as I am still interested in your thoughts. More importantly, I have to wonder what COVID-19 does to future responses to these questions. For example, delivery robots were seen as a joke, fad, or nuisance in some places pre-pandemic. According to this Article by Roberto Baldwin, it may be finding a way into public consciousness as an important tool to combat the spread of coronavirus. Delivery robots helped deliver food and medicine in Wuhan China during the coronavirus-related quarantine.
The rapid emergence of new scenarios that once seemed like science fiction serve as a testament to the Acceleration that the world is experiencing in this exponential era. COVID-19 introduces another variable, one that serves both as an accelerant and an obstacle. There are many examples of the virus serving as an accelerant – many of which I have written about over the last several weeks.
The COVID-19 crisis is fast-moving with information bombarding us in real-time. On this Tuesday morning, as we awake to more isolation and rising numbers, there is much to consider across every domain. Some like Enrique Dans are writing about the changes coming to Education. Issues like a drop in school attendance, obsolescence of teaching methods, technology barriers of entry to education, and an aversion to face-to-face interaction are likely to change education as we know it. As it is with every domain, institutions, academic directors, teachers or students who are unable to adapt will simply have no place in this new scenario. As a new normal emerges, educators are likely to revise their teaching methods and evaluation approaches, among other things.
There are many conflicting views emerging on the timing of an economic new normal. Regardless of the source, all of it at some level is speculation. There is too much uncertainty to do prediction justice. That doesn’t mean that talented prognosticators can’t take a shot. This great Article from MIT Sloan Management Review is a must read. Author Alec Levenson argues that it will be a long time until an economic new normal. Some of his rationale is summarized below:
It was late 2013 and I was thinking about the transformation that digital would eventually drive. In a Series of Posts on transformation, I laid out my early thinking about forcing functions and related enablers. One of those enablers was Thinking Differently. In this Article authored by Jeff Haden, he describes the viewpoints of best-selling author Simon Sinek:
“These are not unprecedented times. There are many cases — lists of cases — where change, or something unexpected, has put many companies out of business, and made other companies come out stronger and reinvent themselves. The invention of the Internet put many, many companies out of business. The ones who could not reinvent themselves for the Internet age but rather doubled down on the old way they did business.”
As I mentioned in yesterday’s Post, rehearsing the future has never been more important. In that post, I focused on the implications of COVID-19 across a broad set of categories. In a complex and uncertain world, to sense and respond is critical to managing towards constructive outcomes. In this case, to sense is to have a view of potential impact. Responding – in all its various forms – shapes the future. How might the world respond to a pandemic that threatens to reshape that world? This slideshow capture the full sense-and-respond exercise. As is the case with a See-Rehearse-Adapt philosophy, this exercise is never done. Here in this slideshow are the possible implications and potential responses. Let’s connect a few dots.
In my post yesterday, I mentioned that post-pandemic perspectives are emerging for every domain. These signals help us evaluate what world emerges after the crisis. I referenced using an implication and response framework to rehearse this emerging future. In looking at future scenarios, I have found this Rehearsing to be very instructive. When I speak of rehearsing, I am talking about understanding possible futures. Rehearsing allows us to analyze the implications of scenarios and their potential paths. The figure below demonstrates an exercise focused on assessing the implications of the autonomous vehicle scenario. Rehearsing allows us to look at the breadth and depth of a scenario – and in most cases, the implications are broader and deeper than we realize.
It has been my desire to tell stories; to paint pictures of possible futures. Any story-teller would marvel at the amount of possible futures evolving from the current crisis. I have been a fan of the book the Fourth Turning because of the compelling journey through history that the book takes you on. Stories of crisis that emerged every 80 to 100 years like clockwork; and the reshaping of the social order that followed. It has been a little over 80 years since the last world altering crisis emerged. World War Two qualifies as an event that reshaped the social order when it was done.