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Human Needs During Testing Times

1 week ago

By vikram rao

Recent events have shifted the focus back to innovation and design keeping ‘human needs and experiences’ at the core. 

In that context, it’s important to explore initiatives & innovation during this period while also looking ahead into the post Coronavirus phase. 

There have been many historic events over the past few decades but the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its ramifications is a phenomena at such a scale that most of us have only experienced for the first time. The pandemic, apart from taking lives and challenging people of all walks of life, has had huge economic and geopolitical impact on the world – bringing our otherwise fast-paced lives and our economy’s businesses to halt. 

These are testing times where humanity has had to take a step back, rethink our priorities and change course as needed on many fronts — from healthcare to infrastructure to redefining what a normal life would be for us after such pandemics. At BORN we are constantly thinking about solving problems through ‘defining experiences’ irrespective of the situation we are in, so it is vital for us to reflect on initiatives & innovation during this period while also looking ahead into the post Coronavirus phase to help businesses going forward.

Initiatives and innovation during the pandemic 

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and what better time than now to invent when humans need to think out of the box to solve existing problems. Humanized experiences ensure that we are keeping humans and their needs in mind foremost to help make life simpler and better. 

We are already seeing businesses think inventively and take bold steps to help in the fight against the pandemic. The chairman of our group company and prominent Indian industrialist Anand Mahindra has offered Mahindra resorts as COVID-19 makeshift hospitals to aid the government’s efforts in the fight against the virus. Large companies like Ford and Dyson are venturing into manufacturing medical equipment like ventilators — which is the need of the hour, while many distillers in North America are utilizing their supply of alcohol to create sanitizers that are running out of stock world over. 

Call it innovation, resourcefulness or business ingenuity – these efforts are welcome steps that cater to societal needs. More initiatives, business strategy realignments, and innovations as these go a long way in helping another and allowing businesses to keep afloat during economic meltdowns. 

While businesses may be inclined to innovate driven by the organizational culture or a business acumen, we are also witnessing several individuals rise to the challenge to help address one of this unnatural disaster. Take the example of a London based Industrial Designer who designed a product overnight called the ‘hygiene hook’ once he heard about the challenge that visitors to a local hospital were facing. The visitors ran the risk of contracting the virus since they had to repeatedly touch door handles in the hospital after sanitizing their hands. Steve Brooks designed a product that can be easily attached to an existing door hand and has an extension to help users open the door with their forearm, which is a safer bet compared to using your palm and fingers to open the door. 

Another example worth mentioning is that of Daniel Joseph a designer at Walt Disney, who has used available heater and air conditioning filters to create face masks. One can find even more instances of a problem-solving community innovate when a local artesian Phanidra Pradhan from Gahpur, Assam in India came up with the ‘Gamusa mask’, which is a mask made of the Assamese towel which is a symbol of identity for every Assamese. Being the season of Bohag Bihu (a local sowing festival in Assam), this mask is wildly popular due to its affordable price and utility in combatting the Coronavirus.

Predictions post the pandemic  

It may be difficult to make predictions of what the post-pandemic world would eventually look like, but judging by some of the consequences of the pandemic, recent developments, and global research and media agency indications, a few likely focus areas are outlined below:

1. Focus on Health & Hygiene  

Healthy habits have been reiterated time and again during the pandemic with the WHO, NGOs and governmental bodies running multiple social awareness programs and campaigns to reach out to all citizens. 

Apart from educating people about how the virus spreads and how to prevent contracting it, the focus has also been on staying healthy and developing better immunity. With health and hygiene taking center-stage, the manufacturing and sale of health products and services are expected to surge in the post-pandemic period. 

Alternative medicine systems and related medicines may also see a rise until there is adequate research that identifies what products provide utility and what fail to help their consumer. While there lays a huge opportunity in commercial expansion, it also cautions us of the risks of possible exploitation of uninformed buyers.

“Most people don’t wash their hands very well. As silly as it sounds to go watch a YouTube video on handwashing, people should do it to learn how to do it properly.” — Paul Biddinger, Harvard Chan School

2. The Rise in Contactless Ways  

With the emergence of smartphones and technological advancements in the past few decades, touch screen usage has increased and so have interaction possibilities. We as consumers of these technologies have been deeply impressed by these changes and have adapted to them quickly as that’s how we naturally tend to interact – by touching things. However, this pandemic has now made us aware that every touchable surface can transmit a virus. 

That understanding may mean less reliance on touchable surfaces and a likely shift to other contact-less mediums like voice, vision and gesture-based interfaces. Notably, delivery companies are already employing a contact-less delivery system in these times, while auto major BMW has launched JOY, its contact-less online experience of buying a car. These trends can touch many other industries and services too with likely shifts to other contact-less mediums like voice, vision and gesture-based interfaces.

3. Speeded Digital Transformation  

While employees of start-ups and independent consultants have been working from home or in makeshift and co-working spaces for some time now, the pandemic has forced even large IT companies and its employees to adapt to the concept of entire hierarchies working from home. 

This is leading to a strengthening of the supporting digital infrastructure and exploration of digital solutions to keep meetings and collaboration activities seamless. Subscriptions of Zoom, a video conferencing service provider, have skyrocketed in the past few months while many new players are also emerging in this space. Healthcare needs during these periods continue to exist or may have increased due to the paranoia of the pandemic. 

However, hospitals have been discouraging traffic to ensure that only essential cases and emergencies are addressed. This is opening up telemedicine possibilities more than ever before. Healthcare professionals are now open to telemedicine or virtual consultations and are reaching out to people regarding the same. Telemedicine enables basic clinical services without an in-person visit which is a welcome transition during this period.

When an outbreak emerged, we realized that there aren’t reliable ways we can track and monitor the pandemic effectively or where and how to get necessary information and resources. We suddenly saw a surge in individuals and organizations striving to develop software and apps providing that information with many ending up reinventing the wheel. This also saw the rise of malicious software apps being developed and opportunistic hackers trying to tap into erroneous user behavior patterns and vulnerabilities on the internet. The lessons learned during the pandemic will hopefully better prepare us with software and systems to monitor any crises in the future by using technology and big data. 

The need for social distancing practices has meant that most in-person are cancelled to avoid the spread of the disease. Many event organizers, be it professional or academic sessions, were forced to move towards digital routes. While going digital means missing a personal connection, these solutions still are effective in distributing necessary information. There are some noted benefits as well, as it takes away certain challenges like physical capacity or geographical issues. Digital meetings may not completely replace in-person events, but their utilities begin to expand with more and more practice.

All of these examples and other such similar changes across industries have accelerated the digital transformation across the world. 

4. Increased Online Shopping  

Many businesses that have not gone digital were impacted immensely during these tough times. The sequence of events and its financial implications on businesses have forced these companies to quickly think about a digital strategy going forward. 

Unsurprisingly, existing eCommerce solutions was challenged in by the volume of transactions that has spiked in this time. Users who were either reluctant are now far more compelled to shop online during these times. That spike in eCommerce may became a new normal, so it is prudent for businesses to consider gearing up to meet the surging demand. 

“While COVID-19 is hurting in-store traffic for some retailers, others have seen surges in online shopping, as anxiety over the virus increases.” – Adobe Analytics Blog

5. Re-emergence of Robotics  

Robotics seem like an appealing solution with the need to go contactless. Historically, businesses have had reservations in using them extensively due to the cost of the technology and its development. However, automation and robotics are contactless and fail to spread disease with them.

Thus, in addition to their use in factories and dangerous environments, buisnesses should also consider their use in human-friendly environments delivering groceries, helping obtain vitals and other samples in healthcare systems and many other instances. 

With this increased demand, we should see the cost of the technology to develop robots decrease in the near future, making them more affordable and thereby more widely used in business and society.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been taxing to a variety of social and economic systems throughout the world – but it also helps people become more resilient and innovative and compels them to adapt to difficult situations and needs. Some of the predicted focus areas seem promising and exciting.

However, care needs to be taken that we are investing in digital transformation projects that are meaningful and meet personal and business goals. Above all else, its essential to note that this pandemic will pass, and our key takeaway rest in that everything we do should always keep humans and our fundamental needs at the forefront — now and at all times.

References: 

  • The Print. Anand Mahindra offers resorts as COVID-19 hospitals, donates 100% of salary to set up fund. March 22, 2020. 
  • Food Dive. Alcohol companies pivot to producing hand sanitizer as coronavirus intensifies. March 23, 2020. 
  • BBC News. Coronavirus: The new inventions inspired by a pandemic. March 24, 2020. 
  • News18. For Assam, ‘Gamusa’ Face Masks are The Most Convenient Face Covers to Fight Coronavirus. April 9, 2020. 
  • Forbes. 9 Future Predictions For A Post-Coronavirus World. April 3, 2020.

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