27.05.2020 Fabian Roschig

Emerging opportunities for design and innovation Post-COVID 19

The transition to a new normal? A permanent shift or a short-term event?

Will a “new normal” really happen or do we rush back to the world we have known before? Are people really reconsidering capitalism and the way they consume? Do people rethink how governments act and if they really represent what they elected them for? Do people recognize how vulnerable our modern, globalized world is to a fast-moving systemic shock? Will they change their habits permanently?

It’s just too early to tell.

Facing different levels of uncertainty

Actually, in these times we have to deal with different layers of uncertainty at the same time:

  1. Competitive Landscape (Transformative new technologies or business models emerging from COVID-19 opportunities or changing customer demand)
  2. Physical environment (COVID-19 = scarce resources, destroyed supply chains, health and sanitation issues, etc.)
  3. Social conditions (Changing customer values, opinions, and expectations)

I believe that the COVID-19 disruption creates a lot of emerging opportunities for design and innovation to contribute to a better post-pandemic economic model-More resilient, more protective, more sovereign, and more inclusive and I really hope we don’t miss such a unique opportunity.

How to capitalize on these new opportunities?

As explained in my recent post “6 reasons why you should treat innovation as a survival skill in times of crises”, I think that innovation should not be one of the activities to cut and wait for “better times” when spotting uncertainty on the horizon. Quite the contrary.

Innovation and design become survival-skills as designers and innovators know how to deal with uncertainties.

We are entering a period of forced experimentation as foresight will be difficult and planning based on historical data close to impossible or as Netherlands’ Prime Minister Rutte said:

“We must make 100% of the decisions based on a maximum of 50% of knowledge”

Beating uncertainty 🥊 with experiments with real-user feedback

In this context, methodical experiments with real-user feedback and a strcutured exploration of new opportunities become mission-critical to rapidly adapt your business to new market demands

This is actually what the core of innovation is:

Innovation = Finding new solutions for unmet customer needs

Now we know that adapting is extremely difficult for large, risk-averse organizations because they are designed to thrive in the current economic system. So we, the designers, and the innovators will have to lead new ways of creating and delivering value as the most innovative solutions often arise in the face of the greatest constraints.

“Design expertise has historically been leveraged as a vehicle to embed alternative value systems into the economy. For example, in the early 1990s, when 80% of new products failed immediately after introduction to market, designers created human-centered approaches to incorporate user concerns into product design. As a result of the now cross-market adoption of human-centered practices, aspects of feasibility, usability, and desirability have started to shape new production and consumption systems.” (Leading transitions to the New Economy: 5 leadership skills for a new era).

Let’s hope we will get it right and that we don’t miss such a unique opportunity.

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.- Stanford economist Paul Romer

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