In a world in which COVID-19 poses an overwhelming degree of uncertainty, it's natural to wonder what life will be like after the crisis passes. At a moment like this, the only thing we can say with certainty is that the future will surprise us. In order to help leaders grapple with a future no one can predict, Salesforce and Deloitte hosted a dialogue among renowned scenario thinkers to consider the societal and business impacts of the pandemic.
The result is The World Remade by COVID-19, a detailed look at four possible scenarios for how the world might unfold in the next three to five years.
We do not yet know how severe the pandemic will ultimately prove to be or what impact it will have on societies and economies, but scenario planning is a tool we can use to imagine what the future might look like and open our eyes to new opportunities and hidden risks.
And perhaps no sector has more at stake than health care. As those on the front lines fighting the disease, organizational resilience will be critical in the years ahead. Health care providers are in "respond mode" now. But what will it take to recover, and eventually thrive, in a world remade by COVID-19?
We started by exploring the uncertainties likely to drive the greatest impact post-COVID-19, including:
- The overall severity of the pandemic
- The level of collaboration within and among nations
- The health care system response to the crisis
- The economic consequences of the crisis
- The level of social cohesion in response to the crisis
The following four scenarios are a result of us examining what the future could look like depending upon how these uncertainties play out:
The passing storm
The COVID-19 pandemic shakes society, but with an effective health system and government response, the virus is eradicated earlier than expected. Still, there are long-term economic impacts — especially hard hit are small businesses and lower- and middle-income individuals, potentially sharpening tensions between socioeconomic classes.
The pandemic persists past initial projections, placing a growing burden on governments around the world as they struggle to handle the crisis. Some companies step up as part of the global solution, with a surge of public-private sector partnerships emerging. New "pop-up ecosystems" arise to respond to critical needs and drive much-needed innovation. A shift toward greater corporate responsibility is seen with new long-term outlooks leading to stronger emphasis on investing in workers and communities.
Sunrise in the east
The COVID-19 pandemic is severe and unfolds inconsistently across the world. China and other East Asian countries manage the disease more effectively, whereas Western nations struggle with deep and lasting impacts — human, social, and economic — driven by slower and inconsistent responses. The global center of power shifts decisively east with China and other East Asian nations taking the reins as primary powers on the world stage and their strong, centralized government response becomes the gold standard globally.
COVID-19 causes a prolonged crisis as waves of disease rock the globe for longer than anyone was prepared for. Mounting deaths, social unrest, and economic freefall become prominent. Nations grow isolationist, putting strict controls on foreigners and domesticating supply chains in the name of local security. Government surveillance becomes commonplace.
As a health care leader, reflect on these scenarios and consider the following key questions:
- Which of your previous expectations need to be rethought?
- What are the biggest threats to your current business in these worlds?
- Which scenario best describes the world your organization appears to be preparing for?
- What would you need to do differently if any of these scenarios becomes the future?
Download and read the full report, The World Remade by COVID-19, for a detailed look at how each scenario might impact business and society. Use it as a tool to guide productive conversations around the lasting impacts of the crisis on your organization.