COVID-19 Miscellany

7 Predictions for a Post-Coronavirus World

Remote work, automation, and telemedicine could soon become the new normal  –

Medical Experts:  Cautious. Hopeful. Realistic.

Those are words that medical experts are frequently using to describe results of a recent test of the drug remdesivir for patients hospitalized with severe infections of COVID-19.

More than half of the patients were so ill that they were on mechanical ventilators, while another 8 percent were on a treatment that uses a pump to oxygenate blood outside the body.than half of the patients were so ill that they were on mechanical ventilators, while another 8 percent were on a treatment that uses a pump to oxygenate blood outside the body.

After receiving remdesivir once a day for up to 10 days, two-thirds of patients improved their support status, and nearly half were discharged from the hospital, researchers reported in an article published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Seven patients died from the disease after completion of remdesivir treatment, including six who had been receiving invasive ventilation.

How Business Should Act Now

We are entering new and uncharted territory for business. What will consumer behavior look like after we all re-emerge? How can companies manage through such a disastrous “inflection point”? What does this moment mean for corporate digital transformation?

Few have a more informed and nuanced understanding of such questions than Rita McGrath, Professor of Innovation at Columbia Business School. Her most recent book is Seeing Around Corners. Don’t we all want to do that right now? McGrath recently joined the inaugural digital roundtable from Techonomy’s CDX forum for corporate digital leaders.

The conversation started with some historical context for the crisis, and a hint at what awaits us on the other side of COVID-19. McGrath says it will be “the end of the Second Gilded Age.” The term was coined way back in 1873 by Mark Twain and co-author Charles Dudley Warner in their novel “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.” At the time the U.S. was experiencing a period of unprecedented economic growth. and unprecedented inequality. The book expressed disdain for the impact of great wealth aligned with great power.  Amazon’s description says the book “satirizes greed and political corruption in post-Civil War America.”

Today McGrath sees similar issues, with a growing gap in wealth as citizens are increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo and workers are growing restive. Instacart and Amazon workers have gone on strike during the COVID-19 crisis, for example.  And government is starting to push back against corporate excesses, as we saw in the recently-passed California law extending employee classification to “gig workers”. McGrath says the end of today’s Gilded Age will set the stage for a new consumer economy and force a re-alignment of corporate strategy towards more social responsibility. Ultimately she foresees a new wave of innovation, founded on a healthier relationship between companies and their stakeholders. “People are waking up,” said McGrath, “to the fact the modern-day worker has no voice and that there is something fundamentally unfair about the fact that the billionaires are hiding in the Hamptons and the Amazon worker and the nurse are on the front lines risking their lives.”

Frugal Innovation

When Frugal Innovation Meets Reverse Engineering

We are beginning with a simple yet intrinsically complex question: how can we innovate with limited resources in a way that will create products and services that are accessible to all? In taking a step back, we might see the solution more easily; that being, we must do better with less. In introducing the concept of frugal innovation, we can begin to think about how SMEs can escape the volatility of crisis and change, and eventually start finding solutions that uplift the values of ingenuity, empathy, and resilience.

The inspiration for this concept came from the personal experience of Mr. Navi Radjou in his book Frugal Innovation that he shared with me in a very enlightening webinar (link below), and how he experienced and learned about scarcity. Confrontation with limitations, such as that of water, led to an understanding of the real importance and preciousness of resources. In a mission to use less of these scarcities, we can become suddenly and creatively emancipated. When we remember that having less does not equal being less, we can transition from a world of limits to one of the innovative opportunities.

Exemplifying the boundless ends of frugal innovation, we can look to China, who, ten years ago, shifted to telemedicine, initially to care for its citizens who had limited access to medical care. In doing this, China’s medical professionals were able to adapt to the needs of their consumers, or patients, including a population of nearly 500 million senior citizens. In shifting to a business model that meets customers where they are, remote doctors were able to consult patients in villages and create treatment plans for their patients’ chronic diseases, with which community workers could assist, thus building local and global solidarity. Demonstrating the power of a collective, communal level for frugal innovation, China was able to capitalize on this preset system, in the wake of diagnosing and treating patients infected with COVID-19. This keen example demonstrates how those who work to promote the inclusion and participation of their entire community can stand stronger and adapt more smoothly during times of crisis.

Frugal innovation is not just a method, nor a set of principles, but more so a metaparadigm, which is an entirely new way of thinking about innovation and value creation. Returning to our main point of doing better with less, we are directed to two essential truths: it is necessary to focus on creating more value, in addition to minimizing scarce resources and maximizing the intangible ones. Our question, then, develops to how can we optimize the delivery of value, while using all the available tangible and intangible resources.

There stand six key principles of frugal innovation. Those being to engage and iterate, to flex your existing resources, to co-create regenerative solutions, to shape customer behavior, to co-create value with ‘prosumers,’ and to hyper-collaborate with atypical partners. In looking more closely at three of these principles, we can more definitively comprehend the importance of value-based businesses in the realm of SMEs.

When flexing existing resources, we are challenged to step outside of the scarcity mindset in which we so often find ourselves during moments of crisis. Instead, by celebrating and valorizing what we already have, we can leverage our existing resources immediately to then convert that into what our business might need. By using what we already have, we ask ‘why not’ instead of just ‘why.’ Co-creating regenerative solutions is another essential part of frugal innovation. With the current climate crisis becoming ever more pressing, we need to decide if it is sustainability or regeneration that is more important to us. Sustaining our current business models, supply chains, and political systems will only lead us to the same place of deficit in which we currently sit. However, in regenerating, we can imagine a shift from a linear to a circular economy, one which includes a continuation of interactions between usage, the end-use, materials, and production distribution. This allows us to act on our social, ecological, and economic priorities all at once, instead of choosing only one value to the target. Lastly, hyper-collaborate with atypical partners encourages us to think outside our predetermined box to find new and more significant solutions. By substituting a scarcity of resources for resource sharing, we can exemplify the radical nature of frugal innovation. If this B2B (Business to Business) sharing economies and marketplaces could spread all over the world, we would be able to increase transparency, resource utilization, all while focusing on multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This also holds the potential to create partnerships that allow the expertise of SMEs to work with the backing of big companies to respond to the world’s most pressing issues.                  Courtesy Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, Ex. Director of ICSB



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