4 trends that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated by years

  • Scott Belsky is the chief product officer of Adobe and founder of Behance, Adobe’s social media platform.
  • Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he says certain lifestyle and business trends have accelerated within just a few months’ time to a level that otherwise may have taken years.
  • Belsky says human creativity is more highly valued as automation takes over certain industries, 3D creation is growing in popularity among large retailers, and more and more companies are going fully remote.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There are some parts of life in the pandemic — like social distancing or awkward DIY haircuts — that are brand new to us. But in other aspects, the COVID crisis has accelerated trends that were already in motion, including a number that will have profound implications on how we work, create, and do business.

Scott Belsky

Scott Belsky.

Adobe


Here are four trends the pandemic magnified that will be with us for years to come.

1. Creativity is the new productivity

I wrote about this trend well before the pandemic — the idea that in a world in which artificial intelligence, robots, and machine learning are increasingly more productive than people, we’ll succeed by using the uniquely human trait of creativity.

The pandemic means machines are not just more productive than humans, but also the safest choice for some jobs. So it’s not surprising that so many companies are looking to automate their processes. “I haven’t talked to anyone who’s not doing automation as a way to become more competitive, and more resilient,” Maureen Fleming, an analyst at IDC who tracks software robots, told Wired. Even the US Open tennis tournament is replacing human line judges with the automated Hawk-Eye system.

Most jobs that are automated during the pandemic will remain automated once the crisis is over. So it’s essential that we prepare people for a world in which they’ll need to be creative to succeed. Creativity education can’t be confined to one period a week, it has to infuse throughout our K-12 and college curriculums. We need to retrain displaced workers for creative professions. And companies need to distribute tools that enable creativity to all their employees.

2. 3D creation

Before the pandemic, companies were already starting to realize that rendering a scene using 3D creation tools was faster and cheaper than a photo or video shoot in real life. Even pre-COVID, the vast majority of car commercials were rendered, not shot.

But with the virus rampant in the US, getting dozens of people together for a photo shoot is simply unsafe. Yet the demand for visual assets is higher than ever — retailers can’t depend on shoppers seeing their goods in stores, so they need to create great representations for their websites. Lowe’s Home Improvement, for instance, hired the studio House of Blue Beans to create representations of their entire catalog using 3D creation tools.

As more companies realize the value of 3D creation for mediums like TV commercials and websites, it will prompt even more research into truly immersive experiences like augmented reality, a format that I believe has the potential to be bigger than the web.

3. Reconsidering the value of IRL

100% remote companies aren’t new. But as companies are learning that their employees can work very effectively from home (leaders at Cisco and Microsoft say their employees have been more efficient working remotely), more are embracing the remote model long-term. Twitter and Facebook both recently announced that they would allow all or some employees to work from home permanently if they prefer.

Remote work has definite advantages for employees and employers. Employees with long commutes can get back hours of their lives each week. And employers will find recruiting talent much easier when they don’t limit the pool they’re fishing in.

Once we defeat the virus, I expect companies will be more intentional about when they bring employees together in real life. The idea of forcing employees to come to the office every day simply to make sure they’re working or to get face time should be gone. Instead, we should bring employees together when it really makes sense — such as brainstorming a new initiative, or forming a new team.

4. Rediscovering boredom

Spending day after day mostly in the same place with the same people has reintroduced us to boredom, a feeling that ubiquitous connectivity had almost made extinct.

Despite its bad reputation, boredom is actually something we should welcome back into our lives. Having nothing to engage us gives us the opportunity for a creative pause — a time for our minds to wander and subconsciously churn through the challenges we face.

My hope is that after the pandemic, we’ll go out of our way to spend a little time each day or week disengaged and a little bit bored. Some people adopt a digital sabbath, one day a week when they turn off their devices. Some turn to meditation or schedule time for reflection. Whatever we can do to put our mind on pause will pay dividends.

Nothing will ever outweigh the pandemic’s terrible toll in human life and economic destruction. But this is forcing us to be creative, to reevaluate what we’re doing and why, and is, in some ways, speeding us into the future. Smart leaders will use this time to embrace that future and prepare for it.

Scott Belsky is the chief product officer of Adobe. He founded Behance and wrote “The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture.”

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