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.
“The best leaders are constantly learning, curious about where they made mistakes and actively looking for areas where they might have it wrong”
“Every so often, we learn something new that rewrites all of what we have come to know and trust. In those moments, our foundation of knowledge crumbles—and with it, many of the beliefs that we have built on top of it. Those transitions are hard because we do not easily let go of our beliefs”
– Jeff Booth, The Price of Tomorrow
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.
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.”