How do you design the future of human experience in one of the most turbulent times in recent history?
At a time when change seems to be happening at an unprecedented rate, our team of behavioral researchers, strategists and designers set out to apply our design innovation methodologies to one of the largest disruptions of our lifetime:
the COVID-19 pandemic.
We developed a framework to understand the context of these disruptions and how existing societal currents drive change.
In a state of equilibrium, evolution of societal currents (needs, attitudes, behaviors and systems) is typically gradual and feels natural.
Then, a Mass Pivot Point hits. This creates disequilibrium and sets the stage for rapid change followed by adaptation.
During disequilibrium, changes that may have taken a 5 years happen in 5 months.
We look for Signals of Acceleration during this time to understand what future realities will arrive dramatically sooner.
As Societal Currents settle back into a more typical rate of change, we enter a new equilibrium.
By now, behavior changes resulting from the mass pivot point becomes more engrained and the lasting impact is more clear in hindsight.
Organizations that have invested early in defining their accelerated futures will begin to see marked advantages during new equilibrium.
Applying the Accelerated Futures Model to COVID-19
In applying this model to COVID-19, we gain a clearer picture of the new equilibrium we are entering.
COVID-19 isn’t the first massive disruption (Mass Pivot Point) of this kind, and it certainly won’t be the last. While the Accelerated Futures Model is a helpful framework to contextualize the impact of historical events, we created it so that our clients could understand the likely accelerations resulting from mass pivot points in the future — and most immediately, for COVID-19.
Below are 4 Accelerations currently underway.
1. Age of Contactless Commerce
“Contactless” will become the societal default as commerce shifts to minimize person-to-person contact.
Signals of acceleration are all around, from “pickup-only” stores to even big-ticket items like homes and cars being purchased 100 percent online. Once consumers experience the ease and speed of contactless, the preference sticks.
Signals of Acceleration
Building Loyalty by Connecting Less
Future leaders will rebalance the love to friction ratio of their customer relationships by reducing touch-points in the sales and payment process.
Dominance of Predictive Commerce (P-commerce)
Consumers will expect compensation for their data. This may mean predicting their next needs, hyper personalization or even direct, monetary payments.
Frictionless Service is the Cost of Doing Business
Things like contactless delivery, curbside pickup, and virtual tours will be the new “price of entry.”
Example: Possible Futures
Possible Future: A Biopharma brand takes ownership of the Virtual Value Chain.
Imagine if Pfizer or J&J created The Health App Store. Users can exchange their highly valuable personal data for access to an endless supply of contactless-friendly Prescribable Apps. Along the way they learn what doctors, pharmacies, insurers and patients need from virtual solutions.
2. Rise of Resiliency over Efficiency
The pendulum is swinging away from ruthlessly efficient business models and systems which have eliminated slack to the point of fragility.
Companies will prioritize “resilience” in all parts of their business to preserve competitiveness. We’re seeing organizations diversify their portfolios and migrate to new channels and users, pursue geographic-agnostic talent sourcing, and reexamine over-dependence within their supply chains.
Signals of Acceleration
Investment in “Redundant Innovation”
Increasing investment in what may seem like “counter-intuitive” initiatives (e.g. creating excess capacity, lower-margin diversification and more optionality in CX).
Rebalancing Innovation Portfolios toward the “New New”
Innovation investments will rebalance from optimization (defense) towards new/new (offense); creating incubators which grow new/new with the prowess of Amazon, Tesla and Alphabet Inc.
Consumer Brands Make more Vertical Investments
Physical product brands that depend on intermediaries will need to create more direct sales platforms, value added services, and direct customer engagement/support.
Strong Consumer Brands Create “The Online Marketplace of our Customer’s Dreams.” Imagine if the leaders at consumer product brands like Samsung, Estée Lauder, Mattel, Adidas and Philips reduced their dependency on 1.) in-person retail, 2.) faceless marketplaces and 3.) sold only their SKU’s NOT by creating an online store, but rather creating multiple hyper-targeted online marketplaces…Each focused on their most important consumer sets, and each with hyper-relevant media, subscription models and complimentary products.
These anti-generic shopping destinations can help brands learn what else their most important customers value by creating a space for experimentation. And yes, it is less efficient, but its redundancy delivers more direct value: channel independence, more business models, more insight (via data) into your customers, and ultimately less dependency on selling just your set of products.
3. Expectation of Businesses to Address Inequities
The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated long standing societal inequities. Once the realm of government and NGOs, consumers are now expecting corporations to take meaningful action, beyond surface level marketing and communications.
“Bad actors” are being pressured, from the advertising practices and lack of transparency by tech giants to the (lack of) diversity and inclusion throughout many Fortune 500 companies. The Chief Diversity Officer is fast becoming a critical C-Suite function.
Signals of Acceleration
Equity will become a pillar of corporate strategy
Equity will flow through every process that design and innovation touches, from customer segmentation, to design research and data ethnography, to new product and service development.
Business offerings will accelerate and sustain equity
Businesses will increasingly be expected to create products, services and experiences for the purpose of advancing equity (rather than having it be a byproduct, or an afterthought).
All Companies will have Responsible Design Principles. Imagine if every Fortune 500’s “new offering” launch process was grounded in a custom set of principles shared transparently to end users and validated prior to launch. What if: JPMorgan Chase guarantees they left no “edge cases” prior to launching their next cashless payment solution. Microsoft confirms the data in their latest enterprise software platform will deliver more value than they capture. Walmart assures customers that their latest offering went through “unintended consequences” validation.
4. Meet Customers Anywhere Movement
Customers now expect service providers to effortlessly conform to their channel needs. Organizations must be ready and able to use all modes of interaction, all the time.
From healthcare to large B2B sales organizations, meeting customers virtually, wherever they are, is becoming a permanent engagement expectation – shifting decades-old operating models into a mass evolution.
Signals of Acceleration
Digital will expand (-vs- replace) in-person experiences
Digital duplicates of live, in-person experiences will become expected. Telemedicine, sports and concerts will loosen barriers to this as revenue streams open up – enabling customers to ‘be there’ from their couches.
Sales people will need a “real” reason to connect in person
The nature of sales connections are changing. Business left the golf course ages ago because buyers are trading trust for transparency. Likewise, big-ticket items needn’t be experienced live, as in-person sales are traded for on-demand.
Digital fluency is now a proxy for expertise
Professionals who previously dodged tech upskilling, no longer can. Their perceived professional competency is now telegraphed digitally. Tech fluency for all customer-facing people is a business imperative.
POSSIBLE FUTURE: Accelerations create future opportunities. We call these opportunities Possible Futures. See below for an example Possible Future.
Technology-First BtoB Sales = Professional Competency. Imagine a world where “AI driven digital assistants” are the minimum expectation for financial consultants at Schwab, private practice doctors at Cleveland Clinic, and car salespeople at Tesla. We anticipate a massive influx of platforms that simultaneously increase customer engagement, automatically generate market insights, create reminders for key sales tasks and boost customer self-service functionality. This is the next sales frontier that will integrate with and extend the functionality of CMS and CRM tools, and strengthen engagement processes.
What is currently niche spaces, will go mainstream. For instance, modern financial advisors are boosting engagement with clientele through automated news feeds and live tools which allow clients to review their own portfolios. Top performing realtors set up clients with alerts then are at the ready and expert at investigating listings remotely – filtering properties of interest at hyper speed.
In each of these cases, in person contact remains important, but the relationship is strengthened through digital augmentation.
The Accelerated Futures Team
Dan leads companies in converging design and business strategy to create new growth and advance corporate strategy.
Founder, Chief Design Officer
Matt leads the definition of growth opportunities with IA Collaborative’s global clients, helping them scale and commercialize new business opportunities.
Partner, Business Growth
Kyle applies his background in business, finance, and management consulting to counsel Fortune 500 clients at the intersection of design and business strategy.
Group Director, Business Strategy
Amy leads design teams to translate user insights into realized solutions. She is a frequent speaker at design conferences, from the Mayo Clinic to the IDSA.
Associate Director, Research & Design Strategy
Leaders are using the Accelerated Futures Model™ to chart their possible futures
IA Collaborative has hosted Accelerated Futures roundtable discussions with design and innovation executives from leading companies, exchanging knowledge, insight, and inspiration. As part of each roundtable, we’ve asked leaders to complete a Business Prototype Charter to imagine future business offerings that address these 4 Accelerated Futures.