By Jack Killion
As devastating as the coronavirus is to people, their families and to America itself, there will be major positive outcomes, as well. We will all need to think through how we can capitalize on them. I see five eventual positive outcomes that should give us all hope for a brighter future, and technology is going to be a driving force in making all this happen.
1) Our healthcare system will be improved. We got caught this time with:
- inadequate facilities and supplies in a static infrastructure
- a cumbersome system for developing and approving critical new cures
- an overreliance on foreign suppliers
- too little cooperation among various stakeholders in the healthcare system
- limited use of telemedicine
These problems will be significantly overcome going forward. Our healthcare system will attract massive funding; and better, lower-cost care should become available to all of us.
2) Our higher education system will be overhauled. Higher education in this country has been broken for a long time, as costs continued to spiral, making it unaffordable and inaccessible to many. In addition, much of what was being taught at colleges and universities was irrelevant and unimportant in our rapidly and constantly changing world. Large corporations were creating their own “universities” in order to develop the talent they needed and bypass traditional institutions, many of which are going to disappear, with their campuses being turned in shopping malls, industrial parks or housing complexes.
With education now and permanently going more heavily online, the cost of delivering education will drop. The best teachers will be in demand, as they’ll be able teach a broader, global student body. More people will have access to a quality education, no matter their schedules or locations, and there will be a worldwide range of learning options.
Pressure to get a formal college degree will be reduced, as organizations look to recruit and retain people with critical professional and life skills. Many of these lessons can be delivered by quality independent content providers with specific, in-depth expertise.
3) Corporate America will become stronger and more competitive. COVID-19 is forcing companies to become nimbler, more flexible. They are rapidly learning to work with remote workforces, which means that they’ll be able to recruit and retain the best talent worldwide. Corporate overhead costs will come down as smaller headquarters will be needed. Travel and entertainment expenses will drop, as many previous activities will now happen online. People are learning to communicate and “meet” online, so collaboration will be stronger, leading to faster and better decision-making.
4) Our work–life balance will be better. With the greater emphasis on working remotely, we won’t be wasting significant time commuting or being constantly interrupted at work. Our productivity will go up, and we will have more quality family time. Relationships within families and among friends will strengthen. People will learn to use technology to expand their networks of key quality relationships.
5) Entrepreneurship and innovation in America will jump. COVID-19 is going to cost millions of people their jobs. To survive and thrive, many will shift into entrepreneur mode. New products and services will result. And new nimble, flexible “virtual” entities will emerge to challenge major corporations, forcing previously siloed, ponderous organizations to innovate in order to compete and survive. Also, I anticipate seeing a future jump in patent applications, new businesses being formed and in the demand for entrepreneurship-related “education.”
But There’s a Caveat
Our weathering of the coronavirus crisis, and emergence into a brighter future, is going to come at an enormous cost of human lives, as well as economic losses for individuals and businesses (many of which will simply disappear). The economic downturn we will go through may cost more lives due to violence and suicide than those caused by COVID-19 itself. All of us have to take responsibility for recognizing the permanent fundamental changes — good and bad — that are coming, and for reinventing ourselves in response.
[Killion has had a 50-year business career, with the early years primarily spent advising Fortune 500 leaders while working with McKinsey & Company. Over the past 40-plus years, Killion has started and profitably grown nine diverse ventures of his own. He has authored a book on networking, served on multiple corporate and nonprofit boards and taught in the business schools at three universities in New Jersey. He has degrees from Yale and MIT.]