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Reimagining the Future

By Jennifer He

Not that the world wasn’t changing fast enough, and on top of that, COVID-19 hit us. For many of us, this might be the most significant human disaster we’ve ever experienced.

Disruption is an understatement. We humans were totally not prepared for COVID-19, not the World Health Organization, not governments, not big corporations or small businesses, not any one of us individually.

Running a boutique consulting practice between China and Canada, I personally started the emotional roller coaster in the middle of January 2020 when we first heard that some strange pneumonia started spreading in Wuhan, and ever since then, breaking news and stories have startled us one after another. My work projects and plans in China got cancelled or disrupted for the rest of the year. Little had I expected we would start experiencing the spread of the virus in Canada two months later and the US has now become the epicenter on earth with the death toll surpassing 100,000!

Like many of us, I have been following press conferences, news reports, social media posts, research papers, webinars, virtual meet-ups, and all kinds of analysis trying to make sense of the world around us.

Funneling through a sea of information, one big question lingers on most people’s minds: How do we prepare for the post COVID-19 world? We need one another more than ever, to collaborate creatively.

As an advocate of integrating design methods to solving wicked problems, empathy will always play a vital role for me. Innovation originated from digging hidden human needs, which is discovered by empathy: it’s the understanding where someone else is coming from, the soil of where good insights grow.

“Hatred” might be easy to spread and get someone elected into office, but as we are reimagining the future, I cannot imagine a world where this is the dominant feeling that is able to inspire innovative solutions. Solving wicked problems needs creativity and collaboration.

Diversity is one of the top psychological and sociological drivers of creative thinking. The science is there: studies by Stanford and the University of Illinois, plus research published in Scientific American, all show that quality of thinking in heterogeneous groups is greater due to the possibility of a constant counter argument. To persuade someone to your view, it rarely works if you don’t integrate genuine care into the dialogue.

I am grateful that going through the COVID-19 catastrophe I still have family, friends and professional connections around in North America, China and Europe. Though socially apart, we meet constantly online to re-imagine the future together by feeding comfort and learning into each other, even through “your truth is not my truth” kind of arguments. I know that we are connected, my views will be more complete, and I am prepared for future challenges.

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