Guest Post by Daniel Burrus (first posted on CERM ® RISK INSIGHTS – reposted here with permission)
The predictability of disruption as an innovation accelerator is a central component of the Anticipatory Organization Model, focusing closely on how Anticipatory Organizations and individuals can look at disruption and see enormous opportunities.
The untimely situation we have been facing with COVID-19 is no exception. Not only has every industry been touched by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns; every country has. In many ways, there are actually three pandemics taking place all at once: a health pandemic due to the spread of COVID-19; an economic pandemic due to locking down cities, resulting in a dramatic reduction of hospitalizations and deaths but also massive business closings and unemployment; and a social pandemic driven by the horrific death of George Floyd and the resulting global protests.
However, much like they do with digital disruption, Anticipatory Leaders have learned to turn disruption of any kind into an opportunity to shape a better future by way of realigning their focus. Instead of developing strategies to get back to the way it was before the pandemic, they are using this time to transform their business models and cultures to dramatically improve upon what they have accomplished in the past and to become far more relevant both now and in the future.
Anticipatory Leaders know the future is not just about impressive new technology. It’s about people and relationships, and these leaders are changing their policies, adjusting their cultures, and finding new ways to address systemic injustices in an effort to level the playing field for all because they know that black lives do matter to everyone who wants a better tomorrow. The list of both large and small businesses that are making major changes to the way they do business is impressive and rapidly growing.
Anticipatory Leaders know that technology-driven Hard Trends that have been advancing over time have all been dramatically accelerated during the global pandemic, such as the use of videoconferencing.
A good example would be telemedicine; seeing a nurse or doctor using a videoconferencing tool such as Zoom has been growing for many years, but now it has become commonplace, and we will never go back to the way it was. In our post-pandemic world, you will see your doctor or nurse, but many of your appointments will be a video appointment first to see if you really need to come in. Let’s face it: many problems can be solved with your doctor or nurse without him or her actually seeing you.
Another videoconferencing example would be remote working. This trend has also been growing over the last several decades, but now it has become commonplace, and we will never go back to the way it was. Post-pandemic, many of us will return to the office, but many will continue to work at home either all of the time or some of the time. The reality is that some people thrive working alone, and some need the physical presence of a team to thrive.
How about all of the students and teachers who have been using videoconferencing to go to virtual school during the pandemic? Post-pandemic, students will go back to school, but now that students and educators know more about what the technology can do, we will see more of its use. For example, we now have a better understanding of how any teacher or school could bring nationally recognized experts or teachers of the year into classrooms to share their expertise. And as you might guess, we will see videoconferencing increasingly used for individualized instruction, reviews, tutoring and mentoring as the future unfolds.
Anticipatory Leaders are also anticipating problems and working to solve them before they happen as local, state, national and international businesses reopen. From an economic standpoint, businesses and universities—let’s face it, everyone—must reopen soon, and it needs to be successful because there is little breathing room for error.
I have found that by asking good questions, you can begin to see opportunities to pre-solve problems before the happen. For example, will you feel safe eating in a restaurant, going to a mall, shopping in a retail store, riding on a train, flying in a plane, or taking a taxi, Uber, Lift or limo? How about attending a sporting event or live concert? Will parents feel their kids are safe, regardless of their age, when they go back to school? Will employees feel safe going back to work? Will they want to attend a physical meeting or an industry conference?
Unfortunately, the virus that triggered this global pandemic has not gone away and, to date, has no cure. And as I stated earlier, we have only begun to feel the economic tsunami from the shutdown, which has not fully come into view. With this new heightened level of risk and uncertainty, it has never been more important to become anticipatory by solving predictable problems today.
So, what is the most important problem to pre-solve? Trust! As the world begins to reopen for business with COVID-19 still growing in many locations, the level of community, customer and employee trust will determine the outcome of your success.
If you are opening a shopping mall or a retail outlet, a restaurant, a gym, or even your office, it is imperative to ask yourself, what can I do to elevate trust so that people will want to come in and feel safe? Hint: Placing hand sanitizers in strategic locations and having people wiping everything down often is good, but that may not be good enough!
Once again, this is where technology Hard Trends that have been growing for many years and are now accelerating can come in handy.
For example, instead of taking the temperature of everyone entering your facility or a specific room by holding a handheld device to their forehead, which is intrusive and would slow the movement of people dramatically, you can use another Anticipatory principle, the Skip It Principle. You can skip the problem altogether by using small digital cameras that can detect the temperature of large groups of people all at once. They can be set up in key locations so that anyone with a fever will be shown in red, allowing you to stop them before they enter your facility or a room. It would also be good for them to know they have a fever so they can get checked out before something bad happens to them.
Another use of the Skip It Principle to elevate trust would be instead of trying to figure out what would make your employees and/or customers feel high trust, ask them! They will give you a great list. But remember, they will only tell you what they know is possible. Anticipatory Leaders know they must take an additional step beyond asking because we are doing things today that were impossible just a few years ago, and most don’t know all of the amazing new things that can now be done. So look at their list of ways you can elevate trust, and then look at the technology Hard Trends that are shaping the future for opportunities to take trust to the next level.
When you click on the link above and download my list of 20 Technology Hard Trends, keep in mind that they have all been accelerated during the pandemic.
Here is another quick example of an accelerating Hard Trend. An accounting firm recently told me that it has been trying to get its small- and midsize business clients to use cloud computing, but many have had a wait-and-see attitude. However, during the pandemic, with all of their employees and, even more importantly, their customers working remotely, they were now in a hurry to get into the cloud. All forms of cloud services are on an accelerated growth curve.
There are many emerging technologies that can help provide an elevated level of safety and trust. For example, mobile payment using your smartphone has been a growing Hard Trend for some time now and will accelerate greatly as we reopen. Why? Grocery stores and pharmacies who have been doing record business during the pandemic have learned that in order to keep employees feeling safe and coming to work, they must put in see-through partitions at checkout and as many touch-free systems as possible. Another related technology Hard Trend that is accelerating is cashierless checkout, something Amazon has already introduced, and now it is beginning to license the tech to other retailers.
A few more accelerating technology Hard Trends are contactless kiosks for self-service in retail stores, and hotel and airline check-in using facial recognition and/or voice and smartphone. How about touch-free doors that open automatically with motion sensors, and if the business is an organization that needs security, biometric ID such as facial recognition?
Opportunities to innovate are everywhere. Need an elevator? Order an elevator with a smartphone, and have your touchless elevators controlled by your smartphone using a wireless Bluetooth link.
And let’s not forget about keeping things clean and virus-free. Advanced air filtration systems, as well as smart airflow systems that can blow air in or suck air and viruses out, robotic floor and wall cleaners, and self-cleaning technology systems will all be in high demand.
One last comment on elevating trust for a successful reopening. When a number of major airlines recently made public announcements promising that everyone in line and on the plane would be wearing a mask and that there would be spaces on the plane between passengers, and that didn’t happen, what happened to trust? I’m sure some of you have seen recent news stories in which passengers posted videos on social media of crowded planes and few passengers wearing masks. By the way, when you lose trust, is it easy to get it back? You know the answer is no! With that said, make sure you put elevated trust at the center of your reopening strategy.
It has never been more important to be an Anticipatory Leader who uses Hard Trends and certainty to turn change and disruption into opportunity and advantage.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies helping them to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best seller Flash Foresight as well as the highly acclaimed Techno-trends.