In March we started our blog series, Future Insights. When publishing the first blog* we were in a totally different setup, in a world that functioned in the way we were used to. How is the pandemic affecting our ability to adjust the way we do things, and how resilient companies need to be in the future? 

“… we simply can’t allow our current understanding of things to overshadow how we imagine they could be in the future.” (Narayanan & Fahey) 1**

Now if ever with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in the world we need new kind of thinking and action. It’s vitally important to act quickly to take care of those who have been infected and adjust our daily life to protect both people and businesses from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

Uncertainty about what may come next has risen to unprecedented levels. In a very short time, we’ve seen how important it is to act with speed and determination in order to adjust to the suddenly changing situations. We need to find effective ways to navigate the immediate future: work from home, use online tools for work with colleagues and customers and communication with friends and relatives, adjust the ways to do business if possible. Unfortunately, for many this means downsizing or closing the business.

At the same time, we’re beginning to realize that the world will not be the same after this pandemic. Though we’ve seen vast changes in the society the past decades with the rise of the Internet, mobile communication, and online business, we now face even bigger forces of change. We need to invent new futures, new ways of working, new ways of doing business, new ways of creating and maintaining a safe and sustainable environment.

Insurance companies have enjoyed a long history of stable state business. Though there have been many drivers of change pushing insurers to modernize their business, the current worldwide crisis is a disruptor unlike any other. The needs of addressing changing customer expectations, new technologies, digitalization and new business models suddenly get a new urgency.

Insurance companies play an important role in the well-being and finances of both individuals and businesses, especially in hard times. When the hard times affect also insurers themselves, the challenges for them are even greater. Naturally, it’s mandatory to guarantee continuation of good financial and operational capabilities. But also, customer empathy is in high demand.

The challenge of not allowing our current ways of thinking to overshadow how we imagine emerging futures will require flexibility and courage to think differently. It will need changes to old rules and regulations. It will need creativity. It will also need collaboration, working together perhaps with some unlikely partners. It will result in new business models, hopefully also in more resilient companies and individuals.

In these unusual times, we all benefit from tools that enhance our capability to create novel ideas. We need to find ways to fix the problems, not just the symptoms. I’ve included here links to a handful of articles that describe tools used by futures thinkers. These easy-to-use tools help us refocus our imagination, look for solutions and ideas even from some unlikely places. Let’s get prepared to make it through this trying time and invent better futures.

Maria Aarneva, Senior Business Analyst, Profit Software

*) How the present can tell you about the future

**) 1 This quote is from a chapter called Invention and navigation as contrasting metaphors of pathways to the future by V.K. Narayanan & L. Fahey in a book called Managing the future (edited by H. Tsoukas & J. Shephard, published 2004).

Links to futures thinking tools and techniques

Amy Webb, How futurists cope with uncertainty

Amy Webb, The 11 sources of disruption every company must monitor

Jane McGonigal, During a pandemic, we urgently need to stretch our imagination

Elina Hiltunen, Wild card readiness matrix makes organizations better prepared for events like coronavirus

Rita McGrath, Thoughts in the midst of an inflection point