Will there be a post-COVID future, do we have to prepare for a long-lasting COVID scenario or, looking at current data increasingly plausible, will we face multiple scenarios across the world? Bloomberg's latest update of the COVID Resilience Ranking over April indicates that vaccination alone isn’t ending the pandemic. The spread of mutations of the virus, some of which are more transmissible than the initial variant, outpaces vaccination in many places (including in many prominent Western democracies). Countries like Brazil and increasingly India that on top of that lack sufficient vaccines are, obviously, currently hit the hardest of all. Based on 10 components (including health and economic effects), the ranking scores the largest 53 economies on their success at containing the virus with the least amount of social and economic disruption.
A multitude of COVID futures
We all wish to enter the post-COVID era rather sooner than later. And although many signs look promising, the dangers of mutations and shortages of vaccines in many parts of the world are deeply worrying. As so often, the future will bring both good and bad sides and stories. Health and economic prospects will no doubt improve in many sectors and countries to the benefit of people, their lives and our social wellbeing. Meanwhile, we walk on a tightrope with sudden surges in cases across the world, many that will not be vaccinated for long and mutations of the virus moving in silence and with unknown destinations until they manifest themselves. Listen for example to Financial Times podcast ‘The Rachman Review’ with Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in global health or read ‘Scientists race to study variants in India as cases explode’ by the Associated Press.
A single person travelling internationally who is not detected while carrying the coronavirus or a new mutation of it, can cause the next small or larger wave of COVID-xx cases and economic disruption. In fact, that has been happening in the past year again and again as the graph at the top of this post shows. And because prospects do not improve evenly across the globe and the virus in all its guises spreads its wings wherever it can, it is extremely unlikely if not practically impossible that someday we cross a clear line from a world dominated by COVID to a post-COVID one. Instead, the world may well face a variegated multitude of mixed COVID scenarios whose form, timing and consequences are at least partially unknown. These may and probably will be different from what we have experienced so far in the past year and, therefore, challenging in other respects. Whatever happens, we are entering a new and yet unknown period in the COVID pandemic. Our communities and the organisations, companies and governments we are part of have to deal with changing COVID realities to a more or lesser extent. The key question is how?
How? A four-step approach
Above all, it is key to follow a structured and systemic approach aimed at anticipating and preparing for diverging realities rather than to 'wait and see' what may happen and then try to respond reactively as best and fast as possible. Also, if this pandemic has shown one thing, it is that the consequences and realities of the COVID pandemic differed across societies, cultures and sectors. This means that each single country, company and actor cannot escape to do its own homework properly and continuously. In doing so ...
... map, explore and analyse the range of possibilities that you may face. Stretch imagination, explore beyond the familiar health and economic dimensions and stereotypes, and take stock of responses and counterforces. Consider, for example, the disruption of global supply chains and growing scarcity of resources, which develop their own vicious dynamics over time.
Generate and develop the best possible options to deal with each (range of) possibilities and start investing in competences that you need for specific and across all possibilities.
Map the key forces that move 'your' COVID reality forward, backward or in any other direction, identify early indicators that both drive and act as signposts and monitor these very closely in order to ....
... timely activate the best options to deal with new situations at hand when indicators pass pre-set trigger points.
Go immediately back to square one the moment you notice that things develop in different directions than imagined. If done well and disciplined, adaptation to changing realities not only goes much more smoothly, you will, no doubt, also identify new, attractive opportunities in the same process.
Want to do this with your company and team, let us know. We combine Future Mapping with Scenario Thinking and Real Options Generation, which offers a solid, structured and ongoing method to anticipate and prepare for the next round in the COVID pandemic (and beyond by the way).