WHAT IS OVER THE HORIZON?

In the 21 years since Catalyst started, we have watched some amazing, tragic, and unexpected events unfold, but the Covid-19 pandemic is new territory entirely (for everyone).  The complete and utter disruption of our lives, society, and economy has simply been mind boggling. 

Early in the pandemic, many believed the situation would quickly pass.  Yet here we still are, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy when things are still far from normal.  How many of us have been on a video conference with kids, dogs and doorbells in the background?  Seeing people outside of their professional lives in their homes is almost surreal.  We were on a call with a client recently when a small child wandered in and said, “Mommy I want a hug”.  Yeah, we could all use one right now.

However, we must keep things in perspective.  While the current crisis has caused stress and inconvenience to most, others have lost their health, their livelihoods, their loved ones, and their lives because of it.  As we navigate through uncharted waters, we must remember that familiar shores lie just over the horizon–and we will get there. 

But the world will be changed.  We hear the term “new normal” quite a bit these days, but what does that mean?  Will the pandemic really cause holistic changes to the way we used to live? Are we to remain 6 feet away from everyone we meet forever?  Will there never be enough toilet paper, napkins or hand sanitizer?

THE NEW NORMAL, WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

“New Normal” seems a bit strong to us.  Maybe “Mostly Normal With a Few Differences” is a better description (although not as marketable). The question is what will change? What new things will we need to accept and get used to?  As specialists in product futuring, the team at Catalyst spent some time brainstorming on what we might expect once the pandemic is behind us:

  1. There will be new emphasis on domestic production.

Many companies found their overseas supply lines severely disrupted during the pandemic and will be focusing on re-shoring by moving some or all production to more controllable locations.  We have already witnessed this trend beginning at Catalyst.  Many clients have found it difficult to retrieve their own design databases, drawings, and intellectual property from their overseas suppliers and must recreate much of it.  Additionally, many are building bridge tooling so they can continue to maintain inventory while they disposition their overseas tools and attempt to relocate them.

  1. Companies that missed opportunities during this crisis will be getting into medical products, emergency supplies, disaster relief items as new product lines.

This is an interesting trend we have noticed.  As the pandemic progressed, many of our clients found their traditional product lines not selling because of low demand.  Others had disrupted production issues because of broken supply lines from overseas producers.  In response, many have partnered with Catalyst to develop products (Personal Protection Equipment, medical supplies and devices, etc.) that were completely unrelated to their traditional brand offerings.  As a result, many have implemented innovation strategies to take advantage of opportunities outside of their historical core competencies.

  1. Employees who were displaced from their jobs will be starting their own companies or launching their own ideas.

This is another interesting trend Catalyst has noticed in recent months and is a trend we also noticed during the recession of 2009.  Many people that were displaced from their positions as a result of force reduction activities have started their own companies or decided to pursue their own product ideas.   In recent months, we have noticed a substantial increase in the number of small company/entrepreneurial projects.   While many small businesses will unfortunately not survive the economic struggles caused by the pandemic, other new exciting companies will emerge directly because of it.

  1. Products that enabled people to work more seamlessly remotely will be hot.

While many of these types of products will be software based, many new products such as of computers/phones designed specifically for remote office applications will become available as will accessory items such as speakers, cameras, headphones, microphones, home office furniture and accessories. 

  1. Entire new product categories for items that allow for “contactless” transactions and activities will be created.

Humans touch hundreds of items in any given day.  In the past, most of us gave this little thought but the recent pandemic has changed how we think about interacting with each other and the items in our lives.  Touch screens, ATM’s, keypads, gas pump handles, doorknobs, currency, shopping carts, food, phones, each other–the list goes on and on. Catalyst is already seeing an upswing in projects that facilitate “contactless” living.  As the pandemic subsides and people begin returning to more normal routines, we feel the emphasis on these types of products will become less urgent. However, it will create entirely new product categories.

  1. Companies that resisted remote workforces suddenly had to embrace them which demonstrated they could operate almost seamlessly without brick and mortar offices.  

While not technically related to the development of actual new products, we believe this paradigm shift will alter how our clients interact with us on projects and we must be prepared to change how we operate to support those new structures. This may require more advanced collaboration software, virtual/augmented reality support for design reviews, or implementation of client-specific capabilities that may be supported by remote offices (custom prototyping needs, special testing facilities, manufacturing/assembly test cells, etc.)

 

These are just a few thoughts we had.  We would love to hear your ideas and opinions on what “The World On The Other Side” will look like.  Send us a quick email or feel free to post on our Facebook or linkedIn page.

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