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5 ways the pandemic will push innovation

“The Times They Are A Changing…” Bob Dylan sang long before anyone imagined that, in 2020, the expression is not a mere euphemism. The change that the Covid-19 crisis imposed is sudden, profound and transformative of the way we live and even of our individual and collective convictions.

At the present moment, we realize that it is not even possible to predict the future, because everything around us is changing very quickly: industries that are completely transformed, cultural habits that adapt, patterns that disappear and others that arise. Everything is uncertain.

And in times of uncertainty, we must pay attention to the present. 

The question that many ask is how entrepreneurs are dealing with the present and, above all, how are they adapting startups companies to face the future?

The new paradigm has already been defined as a “Low touch economy”. The term describes the new state of society and economy, permanently changed by Covid-19: it is characterized by the transition from  “high-touch” or many interactions, to “low-touch interactions”.

In this “low-touch” context, understanding what surrounds us is a crucial exercise for any entrepreneur: in each industry, identifying opportunities involves analysing which behaviours are changing and which ones we will drop, as part of the “old world”.

Post-Covid resilience will revolve around new topics that will stimulate innovation: Collaboration, Ethics, Empathy, Flexibility and Sustainability.

Collaboration. The concept of a network is increasingly broader, inside and outside companies. Opportunities arise for collaborative work platforms and productivity tools/methodologies that go beyond teleconferencing, with an emphasis on sharing and co-creation in sectors previously reluctant and traditional. Dash Dash and Geek Bot are two such examples.

Ethics: Building trust is one of the dilemmas of the digital age. More than complying with the rules or the GDPR, companies must be transparent in their values ​​and have actions/policies that reflect it. Security, integrity and privacy are neither negotiable nor tradable. Check out these European startups fighting fake news and misinformation, as well as these 10 promising cybersecurity startups to watch

Empathy: In times of crisis we have to be aware of the other and more empathetic. Having less opportunity to “touch” or face-to-face interaction with the customer, it is crucial that companies focus on the value that each product can bring to people’s lives. The “dehumanization” of digital processes opens opportunities for those who know, in a true and direct way, to surprise in the customer service experience. Empathy has to be a core value in your team’s problem-solving approach. Check out these 8 ideas for startups to give back in the time of Coronavirus, to get creative when it comes to human interactions.

Flexibility: Working at home is bringing us all new day-to-day work experiences and approaches to mobility. There are now multiple opportunities for new services to be delivered at home, and also for personalized entertainment , wellness and sextech, all boosted by VR, AI and 3D technologies.

Sustainability: One of the few positive aspects of confinement was the widespread awareness of our impact on the environment. This crisis exposed layers of environmental damage that we want to reverse and that require individual and collective action. There is an urgent need to rethink logistics chains, product life cycles and platforms for common sharing /use. These 10 promising circular economy startups and 10 promising sustainable food startups for example, are helping us transition to a greener future.

The “Low touch economy” is here to stay and offers many challenges. New business models will take advantage of growth opportunities, even in the face of legal restrictions, fears and uncertainties. In these changing times, companies need to redesign and innovate to take advantage of behavioural changes, using technology to respond to the new paradigm: Remote/Digital.

Although uncertainty is “certain” and will remain in the coming months, so will the opportunities.

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Jorge Pimenta
Jorge Pimenta
Innovation Director at IPN (Portugal) and passionate about technology and startups. He actively participates as a speaker, jury and mentor in acceleration programs. His main interests include space, sustainability, eHealth, and active aging.

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