David A. Ramey

The Global public health pandemic has rocked nearly every aspect of life throughout the globe. We may not have fully realized the depth of this impact socially and economically since we see no destruction of our physical infrastructure. Roads, buildings, commercial centers, downtowns, shops all look as before. Yet going out for a haircut can have a potentially deadly outcome. So what has fundamentally changed effecting nearly everything about how we live and work. How do we prepare for the future? Perhaps, this is a global wake up call to the next normal when we can't even imagine what future new normal may emerge. It may take more than a vaccine to deliver us from the following which may actually improve life as we know it.

  • From Global to Regional Economies of Scale. It may be, that all but the largest institutions and businesses, may have to scale their economies to regional and local markets for goods and services. The risks to public health, security, the environment, and political turmoil have been laid bare by a single local "wet market" in China. The cost of navigating a global marketplace in the future may be reserved for the uber giants of industry and finance with investor pools of billions of dollars to mitigate these now apparent challenges. It is interesting to note that regional groups of governors have banded together in common re-opening strategies for their economies. We may do well to watch them and see what we can learn for the future of regionalism.
  • The Re-emergence of the Company Town in the Heartland Recent trends for decades have seen population and corporate enterprises gravitate toward big cities and coastal areas. This has been driven by a belief in proximity and access to supply chains as economically preferable. This may be at a tipping point as environmental, public health, cost of living, and quality of life factors may now outweigh "bigger and closer" as better. Rural and heartland areas may benefit by migrations of people and businesses to less dense areas for a whole host of reasons which make life better and stabilize local pride of ownership and employment. We may have fewer "have nots" and more citizens "with a little less but more secure".
  • The Rebalancing of Inner vs. Outer Directed Meaning and Self- Validation. Nearly every tweet, post, article. photo, and missive during this "stay at home" order of enforced monasticism has portrayed a struggling but more happy and inner directed image of human life and relationships. This long overdue rediscovery of the relevance and simplicity of the spiritual arts may prove to be more lasting than the infomercial " I have a cure for every ill you didn't have or need" culture. Really, how many types and forms of toothpaste does one need to be happy? Perhaps the wisdom of the ages that balancing our investment in love and work and a return to inner virtues may take root anew.
  • A Blended Model of Remote and In Person Business Services. It is hard to receive and enjoy an ice cream cone or hot dog from a laptop! Some things just won't do remotely. But, this remote work scenario we have just established and refined is likely to have lingering impact on worker expectations in the future of how business services can be transacted. We already have the technology and human capacity for finance, education, advising, law, and most transaction based services to be delivered in a blend of in person and remote ways. Think of universities giving students tuition options for on campus, online, or blended learning programs. Think of a future with less human warehousing in office complexes, less travel costs, less commutes to and from work and more dedicated time for concentrated client services and impact. Can the gig economy integrate with wall street?
  • Digitally Delivered Lower Cost and Higher Impact Primary Care. Doctors offices were already poised to deliver "well care" remotely and it will be fascinating to see the impact. As a health consumer actual engagement time with our family doctors has increased while travel to and from the office, long waits in waiting areas, and rushed visits have decreased. Think of the future when going to the doctor will be more like a mini hospital visit used when we are really sick rather than the norm. Look for laptops with health monitoring apps and peripheral devices for vital sign and WellCare monitoring.
  • Neighborhood and Community as the Center for Recreation, Athletics, and the Arts. It may yet be some time before as a society we have an appetite for mega venues and large scale live performances. We already have the networks and technology for distributed participation in national, international, and regional events. We may prefer our neighborhoods and local familiar establishments as our center for outlets to the arts, sports, and entertainment. Open up that closed down neighborhood theatre for subscriptions to the opera, the world series, and the mega musical star performance. More beer and pretzels with your "Aida" please?

It is hard to know what trends will ultimately impact our planning for and reaching economic recovery. Those trends that endure are likely those which have already begun but realize a new ascendency. Yes, this public health crisis has been disastrous for those who suffered real human and financial losses and grief, especially those who have lost loved ones.There is no replacing that other than through our continued support, empathy and assistance. Yet in some ways, we can also glimpse a simpler, more sustainable, and more human future for our planet. Crises are an opportunity for learning and those that learn well thrive.