As we were hit by Covid-19 a few months ago, we all went into emergency mode. Overnight transitions to work-from-home and improvised alternative delivery channels popped up — and poof! They work.

Even so, these past weeks show clearly that this setup is not sustainable — economically for sure, but also emotionally. We all want to find some normalcy.

However, reverting to past practices is simply not relevant for several reasons.

First, because lockdowns and social distancing will continue to be needed at some level across many regions.

Second, because the Covid-induced economic slowdown has forced major layoffs and has already created a new reality for 25 percent of the businesses, big and small, in many countries.

Third, because the forced working-from-home has, in fact, caused us to “take the red pill” and realize the irrationally wasteful cost of previous “best” practices — such as flying for 10 hours just to catch a two-hour business meeting.

Noam Bernstein. Photo courtesy of Designit.jpg

So, the future will not be exactly as the past was. And the question is: Are we inadvertently allowing it to be the result of others’ interests and constraints, or are we actively designing it?

Designing the future is about deliberate intent. It is about being intentional about the outcome, intentional about the process and intentional about who is involved.

Here are four perspectives of designing the future:

  1. What is the future we want?

Whether designing your family routine, your community outreach, your company culture, or your public-sector support systems, it is about having a value system that drives your vision.

Obviously, depending on the realm you’re dealing with, this can be driven by your philosophy and politics. But some key parameters might be: How much good is done for how many people? How many will be left out? How many resources does it require? How different is it from now, and how difficult will it be to realize this change?

Fortunately, these times of Covid-19 are blurring the lines between business and impact, and showing the value of currencies other than the bottom line — such as motivation and connectedness — especially when businesses and organizations realize their role in communities and collaborate with public sector.

2. With whom am I planning this future?

If I am moving my family, should I consult my kids? If I am moving my business, should I consult my employees? My customers? My suppliers?

The way changes are designed has a proven effect on their success. Our ability to expand our set of considerations to broader circles of inclusion will be essential for the sustainability of these solutions.

Design — and more specifically, organizational design — applies methods such as co-creation, visualization and prototyping to make change management more engaging and successful.

  1. Design for economy

We are expecting several years of recession. For many households, this just might push them down from the middle class to the lower class. They will be rethinking spending on everything from rent to fashion.

For many businesses, this translates to a serious rethink of their offerings, business models and communications.

Trends that were already in work such as the gig economy and the sharing economy are expected to accelerate and take on a more functional and essential part in the lives of many who were laid off from traditional workplaces or are unable to invest capital in previously owned equipment such as cars and homes.

Designing the future does not mean dreaming non-realistically. In fact, design’s result-driven DNA demands designing within constraints. Creativity within constraints means a balance between a deep understanding of new service lifecycle, cash flow and working capital, and continuous ambition to do good.

  1. Designing for uncertainty

This translates to preparing ourselves in such a way that future waves of Covid-19 (or any other force majeure) won’t catch us completely off guard and without contingency plans.

To bring this down to earth: assuming uncertainty of waves of Covid-19 might continue for several quarters compounded by economic uncertainty, we can design not one virtual sales and marketing solution, but a set of sales and marketing solutions that are switchable without stress or sunk costs.

Thus, we need not find ourselves torn between an “all or nothing” dichotomy – and can be more resilient and sustainable.

To summarize: designing the future is about being intentional as to our values, relationships, economics and readiness. Although there is much to consider, designing the future need not be a long process. It does, however, require the right mindset, partners and methodologies in the process.

Amid the hardship and loss this crisis has brought, and in face of social distancing, we are also seeing examples of humanity at its best. More empathetic to our elders, more related to our neighbors, more considerate of our healthcare workers, more generous to those who need us, and, ultimately more sustainable despite less material wealth.

This is proof that the future can be an intentionally better version of the present.

Let’s design it!

Noam Bernstein is Strategic Design Director at Designit Tel Aviv.