In disruptive times like these, some businesses and business models will simply survive, some will thrive and others will be replaced. While business forecasting is really just educated guessing, this exercise would have been helpful to Smith Corona, the typewriter manufacturer or Kodak, the maker of film for cameras. I am for sure not the first or the last to ask these questions but … jump into my time machine and we can take a look at what may be in store for us all when the season of social distancing is in the past.
For shoppers in the future, the Amazon Go store model, which seemed so science fiction 6 months ago, may be more the norm as businesses look to automation to keep the products flowing and the customers and workers safe. These “purchasing spaces” would have no visible staff. You just walk in the door, grab a cart and take the items off the shelf. Scanning devices recognize you and your account when you enter and … use RFID scanning to add up the items in your cart and charge your account as you walk out the door. Kind of spooky, but the safety and efficiency of this model could drive its expansion to every where we physically shop.
For businesses that have long wrestled with the question of a remote workforce, working at home may make a lot more sense for some now. As companies do some restructuring to adapt, less travel and more virtual meetings will be the new norm. Will service focused industries have to come up with new ways of helping customers? Restaurants will be populated again, but ramping up the take out side may be necessary to sustain for the longer term run of this season - maybe another 18 months. Will wedding photographers, event planners, concert promoters and performers develop some hybrid of the in person experiences? It is clear that businesses will need to use their experience during this pandemic to operate in new ways. Rather than replacing the in person experience, we may see technology play a bigger role in keeping us safer when we are together at a concert or a wedding. What are the tradeoffs of bringing tech more into our social lives?
For education, the traditional face to face learning environment won’t be replaced but … a new hybrid, even for residential campuses will emerge. We are already seeing a shift to a more learner centered ecology allowing teachers to offer different discovery paths to students with different learning styles. Lecture capture platforms like Kaltura and Panopto give learners more control in processing the information they are learning. Shorter but more frequent video meeting classes could augment the in person learning experience. While video calls won’t replace experience and in person mentoring, the delivery of on demand course content will give teachers and students more flexibility in how and where they teach and learn.
They say a vaccine is still a year away from being available to stop this modern plague but … what if we just got into the DeLorean and went back to just before the outbreak and stopped the virus dead in it’s tracks? Traveling in time can be messy business but it is better than remaining stuck in the past so … join me in imagining what lessons from this difficult time we can integrate into a new learning and working ecology.