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A time to sense and respond: Spotting accelerating change amidst the Coronavirus crisis

We’re living through a period of unprecedented change to our collective wellbeing, the economy and our day-to-day lives. For now, the exact way these effects will all play out and combine can’t be predicted.

But at Kin + Carta, we’re doing our best to start looking ahead to the world beyond the crisis.

Since late February, we’ve been gathering signals about the effects of the crisis to drive a hypothesis led sense and respond strategy. As the situation develops, our global connective is gathering new data as it emerges to reinforce or rule-out what might be shifting long term.

Take a look at what we're up to live in our public google sheet, and drop us an email if we're missing something.

Check it out here

Learning from history: How previous public health crises, transport strikes, and economic shocks can help us predict what’s next

It’s hard to know where to begin with predictions about the coming months and years. So we started by looking back to historic events - those that had a similar character and scale to what we’re experiencing now.

Of course, there are no direct analogies to today - but we asked ourselves, what patterns or hypotheses might we make based on historic public health crises, transport strikes and economic shocks.

The public health crisis

There is no sense in obscuring it: Coronavirus is primarily a public health tragedy. We can maintain some optimism that with available medical care, new treatments and eventually a vaccine, things will be mitigated. But a growing number of individuals and families are going to experience loss, fear and anxiety about their short and long-term health prospects.

New external risks, and their effects on people’s day-to-day actions are well studied. One phenomenon that is particularly worth considering when we think about individual responses is the ‘availability cascade’ of these events: the process whereby individuals transition from being vaguely aware of a new threat, to understanding and engaging with it, to becoming fixated on it and the risks it presents. This final phase tends to coincide with the time they are ‘surrounded’ by it in their social and media networks. Unlike some recent epidemics such as HIV/AIDs, Coronavirus has rapidly passed into this final stage and looks likely to stay there for the foreseeable future.

That means the threat of the virus is likely to remain highly ‘available’ in people’s minds for many years to come, perhaps over and above other issues. They will continue to take action to limit the spread of these sorts of infections, and value things that reflect their own heightened care for hygiene and disease vigilance. Products and services that protect from or proactively remove threats like the virus will be valued. Similarly, individuals are likely to tolerate and even welcome regulation and inconvenience if it has a role in maintaining this protection. Organisations should be putting in place measures that see stopping the spread of infections as business as usual.

The long-term transport strike

Personal mobility is rarely shut-down in the way that many cities and nations are now enforcing. The infectiousness of the disease means that what might have been unthinkable draconian limits, become welcomed and embraced constraints on our freedom. We think the closest modern analogue is a transport strike, but it’s rare for those to be extended for quite as long or have as universal effects as we might expect due to the virus. However, the effects of even short strikes has been shown to have long term effects on the way people behave. LSE studied the behaviour of Londoners during a tube strike in 2014. They found that a single 48 hour strike triggered many to try out new routes, and after the strike 1 in 20 stuck with them.

The relative breadth and depth of the current movement restrictions suggest we should expect larger, less predictable and more long lasting effects.

Individuals will be trying new services for the first time, and discovering that some of those new ways are actually preferential to old ways. Things like home delivery - have switched from a rarity to a daily occurrence for many. E-commerce volumes are rocketing. Millions of workers have switched to working-from-home, and distributed collaboration in a matter of weeks. When a recovery starts to happen, and movement begins again, different choices and patterns might rapidly emerge. Leading organisations that provide these services are already adapting to handle demand, or preparing new ways to meet the changes in what people value. Each of them realise that delivering a reliable, performant service in these weeks and months may shape preferences and behaviour for the coming decade.

An economic shock

Of all the effects of the crisis, economic turmoil is probably the most familiar. However, it would be a mistake to assume the impact, changes and recovery will be a replica of the last financial crisis or others from history. What we do know is that prior shocks fundamentally shift the economic behaviour of the generations that experience them. Malmendier & Nagel investigated the financial attitudes of 50 years of American’s from 1964-2004. They found that those who had experienced the economic downturns of the 70s were far more cautious when investing and more risk averse, compared to those who had grown up in the relative boom years of the 1990s.

We don’t know the full nature of the economic effects yet - but it’s likely to have a similar long term impact on the financial behaviour of those of us living through it. We might expect those in their early adult lives to adjust attitudes to risk and saving. They might become ‘super savers’, or become fixated on reducing overheads and avoiding debt. The need for more self-sufficiency might well extend beyond money - with some increases in interest for domestic energy production and grow-your-own food already starting to emerge. There’s also likely to be considerable personal disruption for individuals, who may look to switch careers, job paths or long term outlooks. Finally, with an increase in hardship, we’re likely to see an unfortunate rise in crime - and this is likely to play out as digitally mediated fraud and scams. So security and a need for protection is likely to be echoed within consumer and organisational digital service demands.

During this difficult time we are keen to help you sense, respond and uncover the bridges to this new future. We’re offering, free of charge

Zoom chats with our industry agnostic strategy, delivery and tech experts - We can share learnings and best practice, advise on your specific challenges and help you formulate your own response strategy.

Facilitate a workshop - Whether you want help to maximise your strategic planning, support design prototyping, embed agile ways of working, or kick off a project in a fully remote context.

Of course, if there’s anything else we can do for you, just reach out and let us know the challenge you’re facing and we’ll figure out together how we can support you.

We're offering free Covid-19 resources to help you and your business navigate these unchartered waters.

Explore our free resources here