Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What to expect in a post-COVID world

I've been working for the past two months on developing some scenarios that examine what may happen as the first bout of COVID peaks and begins to dissipate, hopefully in the summer of 2020.  I've long felt that trend spotting, scenario planning and understanding the implications of an emerging future is probably one of the best ways to plan for and prepare for the emerging future. Good innovators don't simply create good ideas, they find the emerging needs, opportunities and segments that will be created as many forces and trends converge, and create products timed to meet the convergence.

You can find my document, scenario and predictions on my Linkedin account.

Everyone agrees that we aren't going back to the old "normal", whatever that old normal was, but few people are thinking deeply about what the potential new "normal" is.  As I've written, I'm not sure we'll have a new "normal" for some time, perhaps 12-18 months after the summer of 2020, since there is likely a recurrence of COVID in the fall and winter, vaccines won't be ready until early 2021 at best, and the economy and markets will be highly volatile.  When things do "settle down" into some semblance of normalcy, I think volatility and uncertainty will remain more pronounced than in pre-COVID days.

Trends and Scenarios

To develop a view of the future - in this case looking as far as 2025, I've used a fairly standard trend spotting and scenario planning approach.  Trends are all around us, and are evident if you will look for them in your reading, in the media and in many other facets of life.  Some are simply pervasive - the Xers and Millennials will be taking charge soon, sweeping the Boomers from leadership positions in the economy and government.  Some are in the news - migration will continue from poor, dry, unhealthy, and dictatorial countries, just as it has for centuries.  Only now people are moving much more regularly.  Climate change may accelerate this movement.


For those of you who are new to the trend spotting and scenario planning work, I am starting by using a rather simple PEST model (Political, Economic, Societal and Technological) approach to examining trends.  This means that I am intentionally trying to gather insights and trends from each of these sectors, rather than simply rely on technological trends for future insight.

To do this work well, you need to start with a baseline and project forward.  You can't really talk about the future unless you can adequately describe the now, what is happening and why conditions are the way they are.  I've spent time in the scenario defining the existing global conditions.  It's very important to establish a shared baseline in order to work toward a future story.

I have not attempted to create a scenario that is applicable everywhere, to every geography and industry, because that's not possible.  I've provided a general scenario that can be shaped or made relevant to any geography or industry or sector by adding more context.  For example, if you'd like to know what might happen in the financial services sector based on this model, you can take the general scenarios and some of the predictions I am making and apply more rigor to just what may happen in financial services - of course you may need to do this by geography or by a specific portion of the financial services sector, because the financial services sector in the UK may react differently than the financial services sector in China versus the US, since conditions are different and regulation is different.

I've made approximately 20 general predictions based on the scenario, and by looking back at the recovery after former recessions and pandemics, as well as using past data.  I think many of these predictions are likely, but I haven't attempted to determine or estimate how likely each one is - again, that may be dependent on local conditions.

I'll review 2-3 predictions every few days in a series of recurring blog posts, to highlight the likely changes, the emerging opportunities and the emerging threats to government, the economy, business and the way we live.

The "So What?"

I've developed this look into the future to act as a starting point for governments, for business and for economic and society leaders, to provoke some thinking.  In the midst of COVID, we are fighting fires and trying to resolve an imminent crisis, but we also need to be looking forward to understand what comes next.  Companies, leaders, politicians who take time to consider how the future will unfold will help the rest of us adjust and succeed.  Those companies or governments that do not understand how the future will unfold will be constantly scrambling to try to adapt to a world that is likely to change rather dramatically.

I hope you'll read my work, and use it as a starting point for your own investigation into the future.  You don't have to agree with my assessments or my thinking in order to start your own investigation, which may lead you down different paths.  As Eisenhower said, plans are nothing but planning is everything.  We need more thinking and more planning to understand the post-COVID world, because while COVID struck the match, the kindling and accelerant for change were already there.

Contact me

If you read the scenario and my predictions and like it, I'd love to hear from you.  If you read it and disagreed, or created an alternative, I'd like to know about that too.  Feel free to reach me on innovateonpurpose@gmail.com.

If your organization needs help doing this work - looking at trends and understanding what the future may hold, contact me.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:18 AM


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