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False Pandemic Prophets

by Frank Buytendijk  |  April 13, 2020  |  Comments Off on False Pandemic Prophets

What will the future bring after
the pandemic crisis is over? Will our economy collapse, or will we find a way
to resurface and create a more sustainable society? Does the pandemic mark the
end of globalization, or will restoring our economies require an even more
globalized approach? Will COVID-19 apps be the end of privacy and create new
levels of surveillance, or will it spark innovation into new privacy paradigms?

So many questions. It is in
our nature to want to have answers in uncertain times. They give us grip and
help us pull through. It is also in our nature, as our brains are essentially
large pattern recognition machines, to do predictions.

The mainstream media are full
of experts predicting the long term effects of the crisis. The funny thing is
that these experts have been making many of these predictions for a long time
already. They see confirmation of that they were already thinking in the
crisis. “XYZ is going to be even more prominent now”. Confirmation bias,
another very human thing.

Don’t listen to false
prophets. Don’t be a false prophet.

The simple reality is that
we don’t know what the future will bring beyond the first order effects.
A systemic shock shakes everything up. None of our
predictive models in business work anymore. Most of our heuristics – how we
interpret our environment – don’t work anymore. The only prediction I am
comfortable making is that most likely for every effect we anticipate, the
countereffect can be reasoned equally plausible. We will see more sustainable initiatives
AND economic damage. We will see more nationalism AND more globalization. We
will see more threats to privacy AND new privacy paradigms. At the same time.

Now, if that is the case, how
does that help us? How can we move forward if there is no clear sense of
direction? Are we aimless?

No, we are not. In fact,
there is opportunity. Opportunity even exists by the grace of uncertainty. With
so many directions playing out at the same time, it means there are also
multiple paths to recovery. There are more ways to differentiate, and find your
own path.

So here’s what you need to
do. In your discussions on how to move forward, and testing your strategies,
find a countereffect for every long-term pandemic effect you come up with as being
relevant to you. Reason the opposite with equal rigor.

For first order – immediate –
effects, take the right decisions and move forward. For some this means cost
containment, for others it even means scaling up in certain areas. For every second
order effect, or mid and long term effects make sure your strategies in
multiple envisioned futures, or you can reconfigure those strategies to. Keep
your options open.

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Frank Buytendijk
Distinguished VP and Gartner Fellow Emeritus
10 years at Gartner
23 years IT Industry

Frank Buytendijk covers Data and Analytics, Digital Ethics, #DigitalSociety and Futures Impact. He is also the co-lead of Gartner's Maverick program, the company's incubator for unconventional research. Read Full Bio




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