At the very least, I hope new nuances to the word “virality” will be found because of COVID 19. Here are potentially three positive nuances and changes to how we work and do business that might occur due to the impact of this pandemic:
Stragglers will finally move Online — Social distancing demands that your work meetings are online on Zoom/Webex/GotoMeeting. Your kids’ school and lessons are online with Google Classroom.
Your doctor is online with Telehealth. Your social gatherings are online. DJ’ed parties are online!
Live shows are trying to go online. Your shopping if any is definitely online for necessities, food etc. Business and companies that either disdained online or thought they either had more time or not enough time or just did not get it right are being forced to be effective online. Either you have digital advertisement, sales, POS or you are unlikely to live through this downturn. The most significant shift is education. Many entrepreneurs and pioneers have been pushing online education. SNHU is slated to become the first billion dollar school. And yet educators believe in good old classrooms and printed material and the old way. Parents who believed that only printed material could ever be a rewarding experience for their kids and learners will be forced to question their premise. Recognition of degrees from online schools is scant or disregarded but now the world has no choice. Similarly, non-profits who thought online was too much or only good if you could afford VR are going to languish without visitor or donor interest. Some leaders have started to revolutionize the non-profit experience (particularly in the museum world) with fun self driven interactive digital experiences that can be made with a fraction of the cost of VR.
Telehealth which failed to catch on is now the norm in this world of medical staff being highest risk of infection with Coronavirus. Working online from home has become the only choice for millions who are restricted by this pandemic. This time will force initiatives online and perhaps even prove that online is much more efficient in certain if not most cases. While I myself hope that online does not completely replace in person and that it at best supports real interactions, it is true that online is a very tangible and effective option. Will the world revert after this pandemic passes? I predict that at least 30% if not more initiatives will continue online. This is probably how much we can currently manage without inventing new methods and processes to run the economy at growth pace.
Business models change— There are many lessons in business this economic slow down illustrates as others in the past have as well. The most remarkable ones are the move to subsidize health care, mortgages, hand sanitizer, education, food etc. Why do these need to be done only during hardship? Why not always? Revenue models are emerging that are genuinely people-centric rather than profit-centric. The average business person’s language has changed to “giving back” and “helping community”. Manufacturers are making goods like hand sanitizer and giving away for free.
Craft distillery making free hand sanitizer
Copper Bottom Craft Distillery near Daytona Beach, Florida, started making hand sanitizer and giving it away for free…
They are taking only donations to support such efforts. Banks are extending loans and mortgage terms across the board. Possibly the most potent social and business change is the talk of all Coronavirus related medical expenses needing to be free. Why cannot these concepts be practiced always and not just during this particular hardship? Granted that most of there are merely marketing speak. It is a clear demonstration though that these models are viable. There is one potential issue here. The pace and interest for community, free products or medical services and donations here will soften as this disaster abates or if competition for dollars kicks back up. Is it time for a policy vote by citizenry or government or industry or all three to classify what should be free and how we can get there?
Reduced wastage and pollution— Smog and pollution levels have dropped enormously. This is partly because no one is going out but probably also because large factories, manufacturing etc are shut. Buying of non essentials has reduced enormously. Indulgence is suddenly not in fashion. Youth is being asked to be responsible. Where will the world find a good medium between rampant consumerism and respect for the environment? Will this hasten manufacturers moving to on demand manufacture rather than making large batches of stuff that do not sell and get wasted? Will people be less wasteful as resources and options are streamlined to produce mostly essentials? Will the fizzy drink and even alcohol die out? The world has always been - one person’s necessities are another person’s indulgences. Strangely enough this is a self perpetuating culture as everyone strives for a better life style. Where then do we draw a line between indulgences and necessities? Who will decide or how will we as a society decide what is sustainable for us and our Earth as we go forward? Even if this current slow down shows us starkly some of our unnecessary indulgences, will the culture of indulgence just creep back? Will at least the give and take with our environment be respected by all instead of agenda driven and often inept regulations?
While I admit that it is highly likely that when someone develops a vaccine or drug for Coronavirus, everything will revert to business as usual … over time, I hope that some lessons will stick. I hope these three above will survive the lifting of lockdowns.