There’s a lot of focus on the negatives of COVID-19, and rightly so. This pandemic, wreaking havoc on America and the world for going on six months now, seems to have no end in sight, destroying businesses, interrupting education, and causing a whole host of secondary problems, from unemployment to alcoholism, to depression and isolation.
We’re not here to discount that. However, we propose there’s a silver lining to COVID-19, and it has to do with the skyrocketing advancement in innovation and technology. From this perspective, the novel coronavirus has propelled this industry to new heights in a matter of months as opposed to years.
The COVID-19 silver lining
Innovation is the process of translating an invention or idea into a service that will create value, one that is revenue-generating and self-sustaining. Scientists, clinicians, hardware and software developers, innovators, inventors, product designers, and economists in all industries have come together to work around problems, thereby helping the world and themselves, says Healthworld.
COVID-19 has spurred the use of drones and robots in hospitals, virtual care strategies that minimize in-person patient visits such as symptom-checking apps and virtual visits, and video technology to support communication between patients and families. And that’s just in the healthcare world, an industry on the front lines of the pandemic’s surge.
Technology didn’t just explode in healthcare; it’s exploding everywhere — right in your own backyard: the office.
Hybrid Working: A New Normal
One big consequence is the scale of innovation that is occurring in response to this pandemic. The sudden and swift onset and impact of COVID-19 on businesses of all kinds is unprecedented, creating a huge push for businesses to make key changes in order to survive. This innovation survival response may not look or feel like innovation as we know it. It’s painful at times, uncomfortable, to be sure. But no matter what drives it, it’s still innovation, and it still has to be embraced.
Nowhere has this become more evident than in board rooms, offices and companies around the country, particularly affecting leadership positions as we forge a new path through the fire. Stability is critical as we navigate this new normal, and it often originates from the highest levels.
When it comes to senior leadership: “The most important thing you can do is build the strongest team you can around you,” says Former Fortune 100 executive and Poly’s Chief Revenue Officer, Carl Wiese in Coruzant Technologies’ Digital Executive podcast. “If you have the right team on the bus, almost any problem they give you is pretty easy. If you have the wrong team on the bus, almost any problem they give you is really hard.”
Wiese shares his top tips for success as we emerge into the “next normal.” This includes an accelerated approach to digital transformation, the innovative technologies that will support a hybrid work environment, and navigating the future of work.
The things we have resisted for so long, such as cloud, video meetings, and collaboration, got blown away with COVID’s emergence on the scene. Suddenly, there was no longer a choice. Suddenly, those barriers that people were tripping over for so long were cast aside, as they continued to push through and execute critical plans.
Wiese suggests a three-phased model was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic: respond, redesign and reinvent.
1. Respond: Right when the pandemic first hit, the sole focus was triage and mitigation, with a sort-of “no way but through” mindset. You did what you had to do to stay operational.
2. Redesign: This is where true digital transformation happened, as leaders could finally take a breath, take stock of what was happening, and could see what the technology landscape would look like in three years. This is when things starting ramping up as everyone got their sea legs and gained a bit of perspective.
3. Reinvent: And now, we’ve settled into the third phase of asking ourselves: how do I innovate, what is driving key innovations, how can we push the limits of what’s possible, what will it mean to our business model, and what role will technology play in that going forward?
Breaking Down Barriers
The innovations that are created out of necessity may become lasting pillars of the businesses that helped it thrive well beyond the COVID-accelerated digital transformation by about three years.
Indeed, the pandemic is a reality check for businesses that so far had been reluctant to embrace digital transformation. In addition to the stress of their potentially health-compromised employees, a dramatic drop-off in demand coupled with economic uncertainty has sent companies scrambling to migrate their workforce to a virtual environment. But while fast and furious is the name of the game in regards to digital innovation, fast and frantic leads to mistakes, says BDO.
If there had been any lingering doubts as to the necessity of digital transformation to business longevity, COVID-19 has silenced them. Now, most interactions with customers and employees take place virtually, and operating digitally is the only way to stay in business through restricted activity and mandated shutdowns. Go digital or go dark. We need to look at the COVID-19 silver lining in all of this.
Role Technology Plays in the Shift
Technology is emerging into four distinct trends, according to Wiese, and it all has to do with the professional home environment. In the first 60 days of the pandemic, people simply just figured out what they needed, from headsets to HD video cameras, to setting up a purposeful place to work that wasn’t the kitchen table. In essence, they got it done because there was no time to second guess things. Those emerging four trends are:
1. Reality sets in that work from home is here to stay for many people around the country, and indeed the world.
2. As more and more people have returned to work, there’s a push for native app experiences, a “bring your own cloud environment” if you will. It’s a time of adjustment as teams try out a variety of different platforms that work for each of their clients.
3. With many people in a conference room together, even with social distancing measures in place, no one wants to be touching controls that others have repeatedly touched. This has led to a low touch environment embracing voice control, mobile interaction, AI, etc. for innovative ways to interact with the system.
4. A whole new level of immersion is here, in terms of collaboration of video and even intelligent system monitoring. So-called “smart” rooms or systems can detect when there are more than the recommended amount of people in a conference room at one time, alerting occupants that this number must be reduced for safety.
As we move forward during this time of uncertainty, one things remains certain: human ingenuity is at its best when in the face of global adversity, as we all work under pressure with a deadline of yesterday. The immediate threat of the pandemic will pass at some point, but it’s unlikely there will be a return to how things were before. Yes, the human and economic toll of COVID-19 is devastating, but some changes, such as this invigorated innovation mindset, are the COVID-19 silver lining in all this.