Today, we find ourselves in a new period of upheaval, driven by the coronavirus pandemic raging across the world. It’s put billions of people on lockdown, sent millions of Americans to work from home, cost millions of people their jobs, shuttered bars and restaurants, and canceled public events and school classes.
New research from APCO Insight on the COVID-19 pandemic shows that Americans view technology as more important than ever, with three in four saying that the industry has an important role to play in finding innovative solutions.
As public health officials wrestle with the short-term challenge of bringing the deadly coronavirus under control, some are beginning to consider what society might look like once that happens. Many have warned that until a vaccine or a reliable treatment exists, the normal that we so desperately hope to return to is not going to be the normal that existed before.
But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe we have a chance to reinvent the default and make it better.
Out of necessity in responding to this new pandemic, the barriers to wide-spread adoption of virtual options have been stripped away and we see more clearly than ever where technology impacts every aspect of our daily lives in ways large and small, directly and indirectly. Some health systems have already experienced a tremendous growth in the use of telemedicine—medical care by video conference that has existed for years but has been slow to take off.
This Great Pause has some of us reconsidering the inconveniences required to attend everything in person, even while we miss the engagement that typically comes as a result of gathering in the same physical space. Many companies and employees are discovering benefits to remote, flexible work arrangements. And when life returns to some semblance of normality, it is likely that more people will work from home, though a mass exodus from the modern office seems unlikely.
Innovation in these areas impacts decisions we make in our own lives and influences decision makers in every area, from government and business, to education.
Of paramount importance to shaping our “next normal” after the public health threat of COVID-19 is contained will be incorporating the recent adaptations to our normal routines, fully embracing emerging technology innovations and not reflexively snapping-back to business as usual.
Sectors like healthcare and education that have had technology tools for some time but have been resistant to adopting remote and virtual practices are realizing now what the technology industry learned long ago. We can take advantage of digital tools to help create real conversations involving listening and talking without the limitations of physical logistics and blend the best elements of virtual and in-person experiences.
Many businesses and governments will need to move at speed and scale to shape rather than follow new norms, rules and legislation for future innovation. Smart businesses must be ready to engage with key audiences differently, and they must attract and retain talent differently, all while keeping stakeholders, governments and the public comfortable with the pace of innovation.
While the new realities of the “next normal” are not yet clear, one thing is: we must be ready to have new conversations. We must be ready to create conversations that promote engagement, build new relationships and form new partnerships for our organizations to understand and embrace the adjustments we’ve made in this Great Pause in order to remain agile and turn technology innovation into a source of competitive advantage.