Pressure Makes a Diamond (part 4): The Path Forward.

Predictions for Innovations that Will Emerge from the COVID-19 Crisis.

Times of crisis have produced innovation gems, from miniaturization of CT 3-D scanning and the launch of Meetup out of 9/11 to the founding of Slack and Github out of the 2009 financial crisis. We can expect the COVID-19 crisis to be no different. From a design thinking perspective, everyone has become an extreme user whose needs are more acute and easier to see. The duct tape we use to hold our professional and personal lives together is unraveling and revealing inefficiencies and weak joints that need repair. These points of friction point to new opportunities for innovation, invention, and product development.

What a sole brainstorming session looks like when you are WFH. Note, the aloe plant contributed zero ideas but was a great listener.

Harnessing the collective brain of my friends and colleagues, I reached out across social media platforms to hear from health care workers, remote learners, manufacturers, community organizers, and scientists about what they feel are opportunities begging for new solutions and changes to our ways of being that will lead to lasting disruption. I was both blow away and inspired by the thoughtful ideas and dialogue that ensued. A ray of hope in what may feel like an ever darkening gray cloud. Below is my attempt to pull these thoughts together and add color to some of the conversations that emerged. The list includes specific ideas for product innovations (some almost begging for someone to grab on and develop a solution now), changes that have taken place and the lasting impact they may have, as well technology platforms whose utilization will be catalyzed moving forward. I make a limited attempt to distinguish between these, as the underlying conversation is the same…change is here to stay.

The Path Forward

Redefining basic needs

All of the acute pain points we are experiencing day-to-day and the new opportunities that will emerge out of this crisis force us to reflect on what basic needs really are in today’s society. Decades ago, it was surely the obvious elements of safety, food, and shelter with things like cell phone and broadband being considered axillary. However; as our world has changed we are forced to reconsider what “basic needs” really are. I would argue that access to a cell phone, a computer, and broadband are all essential in today’s environment to ensure safety, food, and shelter for you and your family.

Equitable access to basic needs means access to education. It means access to work and income. It means continued connection to loved ones and community. We as a society need to take a hard look at how we can ensure that even the most vulnerable among us have access to the “basics.”

Preparing for the next black swan

While the next major event may not be a global pandemic, what is almost certain is that there will be another black swan event. And, just like 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis, we will use this opportunity to better prepare ourselves for the future. The collective brain expects to see innovations that will be enabled by machine learning, data analytics, and 5G that allow for better tracking of cause and effect in real time so that governments can better mobilize for containment and business decision modeling platforms that aid in quick decision making in rapidly changing environments.

Now is the time

While the economy stutters and we are all trapped at home, now is the perfect time to start envisioning a better future. There will no doubt be a crop of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs that don’t just think but act, capitalizing on these uncovered opportunities and crafting society’s future. There’s no reason that it can’t be YOU!

Check out the other areas of innovation here:

Part 1: Ways We Work, Learn & Connect

Part 2: How Business Operates

Part 3: Healthcare



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Jamie N. Jones, PhD

Jamie N. Jones, PhD

I teach innovation & entrepreneurship at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Reformed chemist. I believe in the power of science to change the world.