19 startling COVID trends and 19 golden COVID opportunities emerging from the chaos

By: Thomas Frey Monday March 23, 2020 0 comments Tags: Thomas Frey, COVID-19, coronavirus

By Thomas Frey

Senior Futurist

The Davinci Institute

As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel once said, “You should never let a serious crisis go to waste!”

We’re entering unprecedented times, and yes, the coronavirus will go down in the history books as the most expensive crisis in all history…. so far! Perhaps WWI and WWII were more expensive, but we’re not done yet!Thomas_Frey_blog_photoUSE 

We are witnessing the black swan of all black swans.

As a futurist, I view my role as being a diligent observer, an analyzer of trends, and researcher of signals in uncovering important shifts amidst the chaos.

I’ve been watching the coronavirus as it moves around the world, as public health officials have put together a patchwork of quarantines, travel bans, and social isolation measures. The disruption in events, travel, manufacturing, and trade has had a range of unintended consequences — not all of them good, and certainly not all of them bad.

Ironically, we’re about to discover we’ve never been more emotionally connected while being so physically distant.

Here are 19 of the COVID-19 trend-lines we’re currently watching:

  1. Most expensive crisis in all history.

No, we’re nowhere close to putting together a final tally for this but rest assured it will be massive. It is both global in nature and massively debilitating to close so many businesses all at once.

  1. Rewriting the rulebook for dealing with future crises.

We now have a new rulebook in place for dealing with future contagions. At the same time, setting the stage for future problems. Even though 887,000 people die each year from Hepatitis B, and 730,000 die from Malaria, and 450,000 from the Rotavirus, every new virus will prompt a similar groan as people say, “Here-we-go-again!”

  1. Hitting a giant reset button for planet earth.

We are now in the “pause” phase of effectively resetting life on planet earth. The implications of this “reset” will be felt for years to come as people begin to ask, “what things have changed, and what things remain the same?”

  1. The economic pandemic will be far more painful than the virus pandemic.

To be sure, the coronavirus is more economically contagious than it is medically contagious. Death rates from a bad economy can easily make virus death rates look like a walk in the park. Bankruptcies, homelessness, suicides, scammer-campaigns, burglaries, petty theft, and other criminal activity will skyrocket.

One person’s spending is another person’s income. That’s how an economy works and what our $87 trillion global economy is all about. The domino effect fallout that happens when one segment of society stops spending is quickly multiplied, affecting people in every other country.

  1. Shaking hands has suddenly become a symbol for “you’re an idiot.”

One of our most sacred business practices, of “sealing a deal with a handshake,” has been permanently tarnished.

  1. Sweeping new powers for elected officials.

If you haven’t been paying attention, our wings of independence as workers and businesses have been permanently clipped. This is the first time in history governments have told private business to close. They are now exerting far more power and control than anytime in history.

  1. The biggest job transition in all history.

Business interruptions are extremely messy, and layoffs are mounting. Some will view this as a great time to switch careers, while others will think about starting their own business. In general, companies launched during a downturn tend to be far more durable and resilient than those started in better economies. I think it’s safe to say that this round of job losses followed by reemployment trends will be far different than anything in the past.

  1. Handicapped by the hiring process.

With HR departments mushrooming in size and countless new hiring laws taking effect over the past decade, most businesses are gun-shy about streamlining the process. This will be an ongoing impediment during a time of recovery.

  1. Our increasing awareness of the world means we may have to play by someone else’s rules.

Once China got their teams focused on dealing with the coronavirus, they formulated a game-plan that would be replayed in every other country around the world. If the virus had started in Japan, Brazil, or India, we might be taking a radically different approach.

  1. The coming reinvention of healthcare.

Just as the bubonic plague ushered in an era of labor reforms and improvements in medicine in the Middle Ages, the coronavirus will force a number of major improvements in healthcare. Since it’s still too early to accurately predict how post-coronavirus healthcare will differ from pre-coronavirus healthcare, this is an area I’m monitoring closely.

  1. The entire airline industry is about to be reborn as something new.

For most companies moving forward, travel expenses will be dramatically lower. Once businesses realize they can survive with a lot fewer face-to-face interactions, any proposed travel expenses will receive far more scrutiny. Keep in mind, the original sales pitch for video conferencing was based on dramatic travel savings.

  1. Education is about to undergo radical changes.

We are now seeing the digital classroom being implemented on a global scale. Every teacher that has resisted this approach in the past is being told to get over it because there are no other options. Remote and digital education is certainly not new. Programs like Khan Academy have been around for more than a decade. How long before we are constantly switching between digital and physical classrooms? As Peter Diamandis likes to say, this will be the perfect time to digitize, dematerialize, demonetize and democratize education.

  1. Transformation of retail.

Large stores like Walmart, Target, and Costco have become panic zone central as shelves are wiped clean by people going into survival mode. On the other side of the equation, are stores that are either ghost towns or closed completely. Moving forward, traditional retail storefronts will be even more challenged in competing with their online counterparts.

  1. Delivery business’s opportunity to shine.

Within just the past few weeks, virtually everyone in the country has had to learn how to use some new delivery app. Companies like DoorDash, Grubhub, Instacart, and Uber Eats are getting swamped with orders. Delivery people are in huge demand, and the entire delivery industry is one of the few bright spots in the freelance and employment world.

  1. Rethinking storytelling on a global scale.

From here on out, all of Hollywood’s movie and television scripts will be separated into pre-corona and post-corona era material. Handshakes, hugs, and personal meetings are out. Washing hands, wearing masks, and buying toilet paper are in. And our lexicon is changing to include phrases like “flattening the cure,” “social distancing,” “self-quarantining,” and “shelter in place.”

  1. Coming age of flexibility, adaptability, and resilience.

As we dip into survival mode, we will all need to hone our skills in the area of flexibility, adaptability, and resilience. No, they’re not easy to teach nor easy to learn! Future employers will prioritize them as some of the key skill sets they're hiring for.

  1. The coming baby boom.

Brace yourself for an explosion of Christmas and New Year’s babies. Many of us have wondered what we will call those who follow Gen-Z, and now it is clear that they’ll be called the Corona Generation.

  1. Cocoon of isolation and the loneliness epidemic.

Virtual friends are not a substitute for human contact. While the implementation of social distancing is crucial to preventing the coronavirus pandemic from spreading, the practice is also causing a “social recession,” a collapse in social contact that especially affects populations who are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to loneliness at a time where the CDC is basically placing seniors in solitary confinement. Even a week in solitary will cause muscles to atrophy and many to lose their health and mobility.

  1. The unintended consequences of COVID-19 will be epic.

When dystopian thinking and transformational thinking collide, great things can happen.

We are about to enter the most innovative period in all history. When people have time to think and reflect, they also have time to innovate. Millions of new businesses will be created, millions of new products launched, millions of new services transformed.

But for those who cannot adapt to the new realities of life, the COVID-19 downside will manifest itself in many stress-related ways including a ramp up in things like domestic violence, child abuse, suicides, drugs, alcohol, and spousal abuse. We may also see protests, riots, and fighting, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

19 Silver Linings and the New Age of Opportunity

Take a deep breath. Now exhale. Do it again, maybe 200 times.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re all in this together. The entire world has been put on hold, so stop focusing on what you can’t do and instead, think of your life as a blank slate and start imagining how you can create the life you’ve always wanted:

  1. Just do nothing. Imagine what it feels like to do nothing.
  2. Catch up on your sleep.
  3. Reintroduce yourself to your family.
  4. Learn to be a good parent. Listen to your children. Calm their fears. They will love you forever if you seriously listen to what they have to say. Meaningful conversations are a fine art and practice makes perfect.
  5. Learn to cook. Stop complaining about the restaurants you can’t go to anyway and do it yourself.
  6. Plan your next vacation. Spin the globe and see where it will take you.
  7. A time for introspection. Learn to meditate, or yoga, or just sit quietly and listen to the sounds of life.
  8. Go on a hike. While most gyms are closed, this is a great time to improve yourself physically and emotionally.
  9. Volunteer to help a friend, or a nonprofit, or a community group.
  10. Take an online course, or two, or twelve.
  11. Take up gardening.
  12. Create an online business.
  13. Launch a movement, a cause, and learn the tools for making it happen.
  14. Pick up a new hobby.
  15. Write the book you’ve always wanted to write.
  16. Write a movie script, a Broadway play, lyrics for a song, a business plan, or your own memoirs. But whatever niche you choose, just keep writing.
  17. Create your own channel. Whether it’s a YouTube channel, TikTok channel, Instagram channel, Patreon channel or something else, your legacy is calling you.
  18. Make a conscious effort to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
  19. Plan something big. Don’t let the walls that held you captive in the past determine the freedom you have to work with in the future.

Final Thoughts

As a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, virtually everyone knew about quicksand. For filmmakers it was the perfect recipe for excitement. Create a pool of water, thicken it with oatmeal, and add pieces of floating cork

Viewers were instantly gripped by the panic of “we’re sinking!” Can our heroes possibly escape this life-threatening situation before it’s too late?

Nearly every movie and television show during my childhood had a scene where someone important ran into quicksand, and we all got to know the rules for surviving it quite well.

But quicksand is far less of a threat than we were led to believe. Studies have found it is impossible to be completely submerged in quicksand because humans are less dense than quicksand and a person will only sink to their waist or chest before they begin to float.

For most kids, quicksand was a source of ongoing nightmares because it occupied a disproportionate chunk of our brain power.

Quicksand is an interesting analogy for what the coronavirus hysteria has been feeling like. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We are entering the golden age of opportunity. This will become a turning point in everyone’s lives.

COVID-19 will accelerate our digital lives, so we should begin to think in terms of unlimited possibilities. It’s offering us time to seriously reinvent every aspect of modern living.

It’s our time to help those in need, connect with old friends, forge new relationships, and clean up old to-do lists.

Knowing this, how will you use this opportunity to change your life and the lives of others?

Thomas Frey

About the Author: Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is a senior futurist and founder of The DaVinci Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Westminster. He is a well-known speaker on a variety of unique and thought-provoking topics and editor of The Futurist Magazine and blogger for FuturistSpeaker.com.