How Do You See the Post-Pandemic Future?

Coronavirus Masks

I was looking at my list of pre-pandemic theses and it is absolutely frightening how irrelevant most of them are to a post-pandemic future. Worrying about AI taking white-collar jobs, or the fate of commoditized packaged goods, or the adoption rates of IoT devices, or the potential deployment of 5G service seems meaningless if people are worried about being safe and wondering how they are going to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. So, it’s time for some new thinking, and an action plan for 2020 and beyond. Here’s how.

What Do You Believe?

First, list your assumptions (theses). Then, craft a set of thought exercises to help visualize the future you assume and put some timing around it. If possible, you should Socratically debate your theses with your peers (preferably ones with different world views). We do this every Wednesday from 3pm to 4pm ET on Zoom in our “Invent the Future Workshop: A Weekly Interactive Discussion about Adapting to Change.” You can request login in credentials here.

To help you get started, here are a few theses I’d like to debate. You may (and should) have a different set of theses, but feel free to adopt or modify any of the following:

Pre-Pandemic Theses Post-Pandemic Theses
The big will get bigger, the small will survive, and the middle will perish. The big will get bigger if they can adapt, most will fail or require bailouts, the small will mostly survive, and the middle will go extinct more quickly than anyone ever imagined.
Consumers of every economic stratum will demand “on demand.” Automated on-demand services will evolve and flourish; on-demand service workers will need to adapt to a virus-averse world.
Anything you can talk to will understand and talk back – Automatic Speech. Voice-assistance will grow at an even faster rate because it is extremely hygienic.
Access is becoming as valuable as ownership – streaming media instead of buying a download, ride-sharing instead of buying a car, etc. You will pay for it with cash, data, or a combination of both. Access is as valuable as ownership. People will only pay for what they need and what they use.
The entire education system is too expensive and is not producing qualified candidates for newly created jobs. Online education is here to stay. Brick-and-mortar schools will need to adapt or fail.
Privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA will fail to accomplish their stated goals. People will be willing to give up 100 percent of their privacy and allow contact tracing by governments to ensure public safety.
As a result of ride-sharing, the auto industry will contract by 20 percent. People will learn to telecommute where possible, which will cause the entire transportation industry to contract by 50 percent.
“Big Food” may go the way of “Big Tobacco” as health care costs rise. “Big Food” is going to use its scale to provide cheap calories to a very hungry world under immense economic stress.

I’m intentionally leaving politics and terrorism off this list – you need to put them back.

There are several previous theses that remain unchanged. But, if we still believe them, our actions will need to be adapted to the post-pandemic world. A few examples include:

  • Climate change will cause sea levels to rise over the next 50 years.
  • Fresh water is a scarce resource, and natural supplies will diminish quickly over the next 30 years.
  • The tools used to access the free and open Internet have enabled users to filter out anything that makes them uncomfortable and have exacerbated the negative effects of confirmation bias.
  • Anything that can be hacked will be hacked.
  • Anything that can be connected will be connected.
  • Data is more powerful in the presence of other data.

I could go on listing my theses and assumptions, but I’m sure you get the idea. Think about the future in a holistic way and try to incorporate as many aspects of your world view as you can. You can categorize them in several different ways: personal behavior, consumer behavior (shopping, media, sports, eating, cooking, housing, etc.), industry behavior. Organize your theses in any way that works for you.

What Do You Believe Will Happen?

Say one of your theses is that 50 percent of bars and restaurants will close permanently. Follow that thought as far as you can. What, if anything will replace them? What will happen to the real estate? What services will evolve because of the void of services? How will consumer behaviors change? This thought process will get depressing, but keep at it.

Then, after you’ve got a mental picture of this slice of the post-pandemic world, ask yourself: What are the opportunities? What can you create? What do you think will be created to fill the needs? How will the needs change? How will your competitors adapt? What will you need to do to answer their evolution? This will get hard, but keep at it.

Be the Architect of the Future You Want to Live In

It is impossible to predict the future. There are an infinite number of things that will never happen. However, there are several probable futures. Your job is to narrow the infinite down to a set of probable futures, then take some bets on the probable futures you truly believe in.

It is my sincere hope that you and your loved ones are safe and sound. As we face this very uncertain future together, the best we can do is think hard about how we will adapt to these exceptional external forces. I believe in you. The question is, what do you believe in?

 

How do you see the Post-Pandemic Future? Share your Thesis.

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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is a business advisor and technology consultant. He helps Fortune 500 companies with digital transformation, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn's Top Voice in Technology, he is the co-host of "Think About This with Shelly Palmer & Ross Martin." He covers tech and business for Good Day New York, writes a weekly column for Adweek, is a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC, and writes a popular daily business blog. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com

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