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How the Pandemic Can Teach Us to Shape a Better Future

How the Pandemic Can Teach Us to Shape a Better Future
No one knows.

These three words are not what any small business owner, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, parent, college student, or anyone, for that matter, wants to hear when it comes to what is most important to them. Yet, this uncertainty is exactly what we’re facing in this era of COVID-19.

As of this writing, businesses within the U.S. are reopening. At the same time, current U.S. statistics according to the CDC show we have approached nearly two million (1,719,827) cases of COVID-19 and the death toll has surpassed 100,000 (101,711) deaths. Other sources cite even higher numbers.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization currently cites well over 5.7 million cases and more than 350,000 deaths across the globe. These numbers are disheartening, far too tragic, and should never have reached such heights.

We’ve gotten so far past “normal” that the coined term the “new normal” is readily thrown around and it’s anyone’s best guess as to when we will feel an actual sense of routine and order. Yet, I would suggest there is one common factor the pandemic can teach us about how we shape our future. It’s simple.

[Related: Changing the Culture of Business from the Inside Out]

We accept that our actions affect those around us.

And collectively, through that combined response and cooperation, we can start to make a better world going forward for all of us.

The one thing we all have control over in our current pandemic crisis is how we keep it from spreading. Even as businesses open up and we look toward ways of reinvigorating our economy, we can still all work together to stop and prevent the spread of the virus and contain it.

By thinking of others, we collectively help each other speed up our timeline to get our lives back, we save lives, and we’re learning how to collaborate as human beings, for the good of all. Whoever thought of such a concept? If not humankind, then perhaps the events of nature are helping to propel us in that direction.

Take the case of New Zealand’s swift and decisive nationwide lockdown. Their vigilant adherence to their own stay-at-home restrictions has resulted in the lowest cases of new COVID-19 cases to date – a total of only one single case for an entire week, as of a May 29th report. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s urging at continued vigilance, even in light of the country’s impressive handling of the pandemic, can teach us all about the power of cooperation to create a better future.

For far too long, we’ve operated from the space of handling business matters as priorities over the human beings for which the businesses serve and employ. Since the advent of this crisis, I’ve maintained my hope that there will be an overall good that emerges from this hardship.

Interestingly enough, it’s precisely when we enact empathy and consider the people for whom businesses serve that we create better services and products, and are also able to realize cost savings.

The principles of design thinking, for example, incorporate the ideologies of empathy, insights, and ideation. This type of thinking, because it seeks to understand and enhance the lives of the end-user in a very real and palpable way, helps us create products and services that may never have come to fruition otherwise.

[Related: Is Design Thinking a Catalyst for Innovation?]

More specifically, while I was engaged in the learning process of utilizing design thinking, I was struck by the example of the MRI experience for children from the book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley.

The original MRI for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was a noisy, frightening machine that resulted in traumatized children and increased workloads for anesthesiologists who were called on to sedate the children. By using design thinking to study the process of the procedure and the children themselves, a story and adventure-themed experience was developed for the young patients.

The end result was cost savings by way of staff scheduling, an experience that turned from being scary to fun, and markedly less stressed parents. The solution was a win-win for everyone – mainly because empathy and the human factor were prime considerations.

So how can the pandemic teach us how to move forward? It can teach us how important it is to look out for ourselves. And that looking out for ourselves doesn’t preclude us from looking out for others. It can teach us the power of coming together for a common cause for the greater good. It can teach us how to turn adversity into something life-changing, positive, and long-lasting. It can teach us to think in ways that are beyond what we’re used to thinking. It can teach us a lot.

In conclusion, I’m writing this as a call to action, to consider in your own lives how what you do affects other people in your circles. Consider how you might start to work together in the spirit of collaboration. And if you are able, think about how what you do might positively affect others in some way. That much we can control.

It’s a start.

[Related: It's Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Activating]


Christina Chan is the founder and creative director of Kaleidoscope Content. She offers design-thinking based marketing solutions, content, and video for the architecture industry.

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