An Upside to the Pandemic?
Let there be no doubt. This pandemic is horrific. The pain suffered by so many is real. I am in no way suggesting otherwise. My heart goes out to all those who have suffered or died from this disease and to their friends and family members who watched their passing. Many could not even provide comfort or say goodbye because of safety restrictions. Additionally, countless businesses and individuals have suffered financially. This has been devastating in so many ways, and it is not over yet.
But can there be an upside to this pandemic? I hope so. I want to believe that SOME good can come from all this.
War as a Catalyst for Innovation
I was having a socially-distanced breakfast the other day with a colleague, and he reminded me of the supposition that technological innovation has often been created, or adoption accelerated, through wars. Again, this is not to downplay the devastation that wars bring. The loss of lives and the destruction of property is tragic in so many ways. Wars are terribly disruptive. Resources – materials and people – are shifted to the cause, making them scarce in other sectors. The energy and expertise of legions becomes focused on a singular cause, at the expense of many others. However, it is this extreme disruption that can also be what vastly accelerates innovation. Wars have been credited with advancing many new developments. Included among these are:
- Napoleonic Wars (Early 1800s) – Canned Food
- World War I (Early 1900s) – Plastic Surgery
- World War II (Mid 1900s) – Microwave Ovens
- Cold War (1960s and 70s) – Digital Photography and the Internet (originally Arpanet)
Disruption is the Real Change-Agent
However, it is not war, but rather it is the disruption, that motivates change. It is precisely because resources become scarce that ingenuity becomes important. It is the narrowing of focus and the uniting of people in concentrated ways that provides the reason to accelerate the adoption of new technologies that might otherwise have taken much longer.
Coronavirus: Sparking Technological Advancement
COVID-19 is quite possibly the most significant disruptor most of us have seen in our lifetimes. More so than many wars. I would like to believe that we will find a way to derive something positive from the rubble. We will innovate, coming up with new solutions to problems caused not just by the pandemic itself, but by the disruption it has caused. And those of us not actually DOING the innovation will ADOPT innovation at a rate far faster than if the disruption had not forced us to do so. You can feel it happening. Companies that had dabbled with work-at-home policies advanced their programs by years, if not decades because of the pandemic. The use of online collaboration platforms had been used in part for years, but now they are THE WAY of doing business with one another for companies of all sizes and in many industries. The legal industry is undergoing transformational change. And what changes will occur in the commercial real estate and travel segments? Sure, many of these changes will be painful, but many will also be revolutionary – and permanent.
While we are cautious and pragmatic about our actions during the pandemic, we are bullish on the future, and we are bullish on humankind’s ability to emerge stronger and better. You keep innovating in spite of the pandemic. Perhaps even because of the pandemic. We will support you every step along the way.