I was fortunate to visit the Carousel of Progress Exhibit that opened in Walt Disney World in 1975. I remember being awestruck at such futuristic innovations as huge flat-screen televisions, microwave cooking, and what amounted to zoom calling with the other party projected live on a large screen. All this seemed far off at the time, but then again so did the year 2000. Of course, in 2000 we were supposed to have flying cars as well. So, not everything came to pass. Innovation is tricky though, more often it’s born out of necessity, rather than having your kite be struck by lightning. And in 2020 there was ample necessity before us, and thus plenty of opportunities for new ideas, along with perfecting existing ones.
So, what’s our world going to look like after this time we’ve all been through? Here are just a few of the interesting items I discovered in my research.
On the office-front, I/T workers get ready, because it’s about to get more complicated. An even greater priority will be placed on important areas like preventing network outages and protecting vital data, now that more external, remote laptops and PCs are being used. Artificial Intelligence is becoming more mainstream and companies are looking into innovative uses in the immediate term. Cloud technology will be used more expansively, allowing remote workers to interact with systems and communications internationally.
For consumers, look for contactless checkouts to become increasingly more prevalent. They’re faster and safer to use and people like them. According to NBC News and Nrf.com, a post-holiday study showed that 58% of consumers said they would shop more online even after the pandemic has passed. So, this trend has gotten a super-octane boost that’s not likely to go backward in the future. If it’s something the customer doesn’t have to pick over, then they’re likely to order it online.
Customer “experience” is the new buzzword in marketing these days. Making the online shopping experience easier, with product offers more attractive, shipping prices more economical, and faster access from pickup at store to same-day delivery and more. Additional consumer priorities include “convenience” and “speed,” meaning the time between when an order is placed and when they receive the items. This opens the door to more innovative ideas in the delivery of just about everything.
Look for fast-food chains to become more drive-thru centered and less dine-in, if at all. Customized mobile ordering allows you to “reorder” the same menu items, increasing order accuracy and reducing wait times. You can also get advertising promotions tailored to your preferences.
Telehealth, or virtual doctor visits, have also benefitted from this time. Patients that were first reluctant to use these medical advances, when other options were available, made the leap and were satisfied with the results. This area is sure to take on a new life for such things as routine office visits, simple checkups, follow-ups to procedures, and prescription refills.
Education has seen technology take on an even bigger role. Students will need greater access to technological resources and the internet to provide balance among all demographics and level the playing field. Innovative digital approaches designed to captivate and integrate the student into the learning process simultaneously will develop naturally.
On his podcast, Bill Gates (from “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions”) indicated that the way we make vaccines will change. The new mRNA process of creating vaccines is much faster and is said to be equally as effective. Meaning our medical community has a better defense weapon against newly-formed viruses in the future. This approach was used for Covid-19. On the social side, he added that bedroom community restaurants, pubs, and entertainment outlets should boom, as more people move out of the cities and into the suburbs, nicely accommodating the greater emphasis on socializing with friends outside of work.
Work from home, which many have done so effectively this past year, is here to stay in some form or another. The coronavirus has forced this method of doing business to address the needs quickly and efficiently, and subsequently, this approach was refined sooner than expected. Look for satellite offices with limited workers in-office and conference space for routine meetings. More businesses see the benefits in terms of cost, work/life balance, employee satisfaction, and productivity, among some of the advantages of using this approach. Though this method is not appropriate for all positions, those that are have proven to overcome the obstacles and worked successfully.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not a matter of if our world is going to change as a result of Covid-19, it already has. We’re about to discover a new way of life for all of us that we never envisioned just over a year ago. And I have to say it’s nice to have something positive to look forward to for a change.
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