Technology marches ever forward. I understand that this statement is trite, but it is reasonably accurate none the less. One of the best examples of this is shown in Moore’s Law: “Moore’s Law states that we can expect the speed and capability of our computers to increase every couple of years, and we will pay less for them.” https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mooreslaw.asp We have also seen that just because a new technology or service exists, doesn’t mean it will be successful, or even accepted by its target market. A great example of this phenomenon can be seen with 8-Track and Betamax tapes.
Not everyone can have the brilliance of a Steve Jobs and create brand new markets just for their new technologies, such as the iPod. Many have tried. Most have not been successful at it. Something else needs to occur. Just like the oil embargo of the early 1970’s was the turning point for driving the demand for fuel efficient cars – a technology that had existed for some time – there usually needs to be some sort of a causality event that drives the uptake of new technology and service based products.
And boy oh boy, have we just gone through one of the largest causality events in recent history. Or maybe even in not so recent history. And we are not entirely through it yet. But I think you know what I mean.
Businesses are continually looking for ways to enhance their productivity, improve their culture, retain top employees, etc. etc. etc… The list goes on and on. Just when they think they may be on to something, a new idea or methodology evolves, seems to work well in some market, and the race is on to try and adapt it to other companies, markets and applications. The business decides which of these enhancements they will implement in the ongoing effort to increase sales, increase margins, reduce costs, and improve employee satisfaction.
The same process applies to the products and services that they produce. Products are designed and developed in anticipation of what the market will want or even possibly need. The difference here is that the business does not normally get to decide which products will be accepted by the market and sold to customers. The market does. And there is usually some sort event, or occurrence that directly affects this decision.
Sometimes it is great advertising. Don’t underestimate the ability to convince people that they want something. “Don’t sell the steak. Sell the sizzle” is a well-known sales phrase. This sales phrase was coined by Elmer Wheeler in the mid-1920s. It urged salespeople to focus on the experience around a product being sold rather than simply on the object itself.
And that is exactly what we all are going though: A multigenerational experience, which is another name for a causality event.
It is the type of event that will end many services, practices and products, as we know them, but it will also open the door for the introduction and acceptance of many new or existing products, services and practices that may not have enjoyed a desired level of acceptance prior to its occurrence.
In the 1980’s the term “cocooning” emerged. “Cocooning is staying inside one’s home, insulated from perceived danger, instead of going out. The term was coined in 1981 by Faith Popcorn, a trend forecaster and marketing consultant. It is used in social science, marketing, parenting, economic forecasting, self-help, religion, and has become part of standard English as defined by multiple dictionaries.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocooning_(behaviour)
Cocooning was a desire for a “cozy” location to retreat to. There were several articles talking about the virtues and detriments to society because of it. People like to point to the rise of the Barcalounger as a symbol of cocooning. Now we are told to cocoon for our own safety. Going out now entails a new risk.
Sport was viewed as an entertainment and escape, on all continents of the world. It was nothing to go out and sit shoulder to shoulder with tens of thousands of others to watch an event. Now they are all shut down with only the possibility of games and events resuming in the near future, and even then, with no fans in attendance.
Changing topics here, it is apparent that “content”, especially as it pertains to entertainment will continue to grow in importance as the cocooning associated with the health situation grows. Delivery methods and technology will also grow in importance. This could provide the needed causality events that new high-speed and mobile communication technologies were looking for to help their business cases and rapid adoptions.
We have seen the rise in security “checkpoints” at the entries to strategic or populated areas. We no longer think much of going through security at the airport. It has become common place to go through similar checkpoints when entering arenas and stadiums. We are also seeing the push and rise of similar functions at our schools. This is all being done in the name of safety.
The current causality event will just add another item to the current security checklist. In areas where people congregate, just as there is now a “weapon” checkpoint, there will eventually also be a “health” checkpoint. Just as you have had to empty your pockets and walk through the scanner at many of these selected locations, so will you in the future have to have your temperature checked to see if you are “safe” to enter. Just as you were not allowed to bring certain proscribed items into a location, now you will also not be allowed to bring in your germs.
This will be more far reaching than just the airports and stadiums. Businesses will also need to adapt. It was not uncommon to see the “dress code” for a restaurant (no shirt, no shoes, no service, was one of the first). But now stores may require more than shirts and shoes of their patrons. You may not be able to enter without a face mask.
It is stated that the current accepted prognosis is that a person may be asymptomatic for up to two weeks prior to exhibiting signs of the illness. So, even if someone passes the thermal check at the entrance to an airplane, wouldn’t you feel a little more comfortable if they (and you) were compelled to wear a face mask for the next several hours as you sit shoulder to shoulder in the interior sealed environment of an airplane?
In a round about way this also brings us to business. For some time, business has been drifting into two seemingly opposite directions. On one hand there has been a continual migration toward the “virtual” office. Teams are now located in separate and remote locations and communicate in a variety of manners to accommodate this structure. With the continued growth of cocooning in the face of the health fears, working at home will continue to grow.
On the other hand, business has begun (re)-recognizing the value of working together and collaboration. To this point we have seen the growth of “open” office environments where offices are designed to bring people into closer contact in an effort to both reduce office size and cost, as well as drive up the collaboration effect.
It seems that the shared office environment will run entirely contrary to the “social-distancing” and health conscious desires and directives that we are now all told to adhere to. Businesses will now need to shoulder the new incremental concern regarding their employee’s health.
Just as badge entries and secure locations have evolved to protect employees from unwanted entries into the work space, so will business need to (re)-adapt their work spaces to be more germ secure / resistant, and also to foster an environment that will not be so conducive to the spread of any germ or virus that may enter.
Could masks become a requirement for entry to work? Will businesses also require a health checkpoint (such as the simple taking of an individual’s temperature) before they are allowed entry? What sort of liabilities regarding the requirement to provide a safe and healthy work environment are businesses going to face?
What is yet to be seen are the next level of changes. What happens when so many people stay home to work that there are no more rush hours, or that they are significantly reduced? Will our insurance rates go down because we are not driving as much? Will we still need to build and expand our roads? With distance and remote learning will we still need to build as many schools?
There are a great many changes that will occur to other businesses due to the changes in behavior for both individuals, and the companies that they work for, as a result of the current health issues. I think we can see many of the changes that are directly related to the causality event. I think it will be the secondary changes that occur as a result of these direct responses to the causality event that may have the greatest impact on both business and society.