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Black Swans Exist.

Until the end of last year, nobody imagined what could happen, we were all living life as it is, and doing business as usual. Coronavirus can be seen as a black swan, which is a surprise event with an important effect that changes everything as we know it. Businesses, universities and schools are having to switch to remote service and work alternatives, and events are being cancelled every day. What was not foreseen happened, and is changing everything.

Everyone is being impacted by the global pandemic coronavirus crisis. It’s time for leaders to rise. 

It’s been roughly 3,5 months since China alerted WHO on December 31st of atypical pneumonia in Wuhan. Since then, the virus has spread and impacted different countries, cities and businesses. 

We have been watching different leadership approaches in this situation. Some have been acting right away, possibly because of their previous knowledge and experience from SARS – such as the case of Singapore and other Asian countries. Big tech and multinational conglomerates are ramping up remote working to prevent corona spread. 

Other leaders, what can I say, are just not taking any action or even letting things unfold in front of their eyes before taking any immediate action. 

In the next 3 to 6 months we believe we will still see a lot of changes. Hopefully, the virus spread will be contained in the following weeks, or even we could luckily have a vaccine. But what if this crisis changes everything for good? What if it takes at least one more year for businesses to be back as usual? What if the new “normal” changes permanently, what will you do?

We are dealing with a VUCA moment here. I know, you probably all studied VUCA, and you’re tired of hearing about it, but THIS is the best VUCA example happening real-time here. 

*If you don’t know what VUCA is, here’s a quick definition from Wikipedia: VUCA is an acronym – first used in 1987, drawing on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus – to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world perceived as resulting from the end of the Cold War. 

*At Echos and as an innovation lab driven by design, we work with wicked problems. With the coronavirus, we are dealing with an unexpected event, something that we teach and work in future thinking and design, but we have never seen something at this scale. 

If you’re a leader, you’re probably thinking the same as me. Now it is the time for us to show and perform on adaptability, on best practices of communication, and also a great moment to experiment. By experiments, I mean, creating new value propositions, new work relationships, new service and product offers connected to the contextual moment. But let’s face it, this is NOT easy. To act as leaders, we need to communicate well, give assurance to our team members and clients, but mostly we need to have clarity and vision. 

As leaders and designers of the future, we are dealing with uncertainty and acting as anthropologists of a new world yet to be discovered. Still, we’re also helping to activate a new world that is on the verge of giving birth. So, in the face of so many changes, how can we explore and foster possible and intentional futures?

It’s on crises that innovation has the biggest potential to emerge. We believe that now is a great time to fast track something new that will add more value to your teams or customers. Would it be possible to experiment on DIGITAL only service or product deliveries?

This could be a way to keep your business running while the quarantine or prevention of social gatherings is held. We believe that FAST ADAPTABILITY is what is going to make businesses survive and maybe even thrive in this moment of crises. 

To help leaders in this moment of uncertainty, we compiled a list to help you navigate change and design your next steps:

  1. Amy Webb: How futurists deal with uncertainty
  2. McKinsey: COVID-19: Implications for business
  3. Yuval Harari: This is the worst epidemic in ‘at least 100 years’
  4. Echos: Designing Desirable Futures (how to design a new future vision based on social needs, tech trends and business intention)*
*If you want a faster read jump to chapter 4!

There’s nothing better than collaboration and kindness in moments of crisis. Let our collective intelligence drive us and not fear. 

We hope that everyone stays healthy and safe!

Juliana Proserpio

Founder / Chief Design Officer

Juliana Proserpio

Juliana is the co-founder of Echos, an Innovation Lab, that is the mother company to the School of Design Thinking – a school that puts innovation in practice – and Echos Innovation Projects – a consultancy for service, business and systemic design. Over the last seven years, Juliana has worked to develop an innovation ecosystem in Australia and Brazil to foster the design of desirable futures and design thinking.

She has more than 10.000 hours working closely with clients on facilitation design, leading a diverse range of projects in industries such as healthcare, finance, education, retail, technology and consumer goods.

Juliana speaks on the power of design to create desirable futures. She spoke at events such as the Global Innovation Summit in San Jose, California, TEDxMaua in Sao Paulo, Brazil, What Design Can Do and the Sydney Design Festival. Juliana has been a judge at the first William Drenttel Award for Excellence in Design since 2015.

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