The constant churn of opinions and commentary would make us believe that the world as we know it has forever changed. Experts, analysts and opportunists claim that the "future of everything" – including subjects like globalization, education, restaurants, and social interaction – will shift irrevocably.
There seems to be a very simple and linear extrapolation of current trends during the lock-down to a future that will look exactly like life under the lock-down, but better. In some respects, this is somewhat understandable. None of us would have experienced the 1918 Spanish flu or any other global pandemic. None of us have experienced lock-downs. Shock and panic and the inability to anchor our worldviews to a recent event or experience makes us look at the most extreme scenarios.
Humans are inherently bad at forecasting accurately and consistently. We tend to overestimate the short term impacts of most trends and underestimate the longer term implications.
End of globalization? As we've discussed previously, we firmly believe COVID-19 doesn't herald the end of globalization. Much will change, certainly, as it has after every major global, local and regional event. Roll the clock back to a time before Trump and Brexit and there were voices forecasting of the unstoppable nature of globalization.
Supply chains do not equal globalization. They are an important part of it, but the idea of movement of money, people, goods, services and – importantly – ideas across the world, will continue, albeit with changes. Some trends, such as supply chain relocation, will likely accelerate, including movements away from China.
For those who follow trends in Asia, this is not something that came about because of the US-China trade tensions. Multinationals and even Chinese firms have been relocating some manufacturing to places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia for some time. Geopolitics, rising wages in China, and supply chain rationalization have all contributed to this movement.
But companies will still produce, some onshore, some at new locations, and some in China. Companies that sell into the Chinese domestic market will need to be present in China, source, make and sell there. This will increasingly be the norm for some. Others will relocate, for financial, geopolitical, political, regulatory, and moral and ethical reasons.
What about the takes that say all future work will be done virtually from home, and that this forewarns of a coming crisis for real estate? Let's start by being honest. Ask yourself about your productivity at home. How well can we juggle, work, family, kids, pets etc.? Do you have the optimum set up at home? What about human interaction?
Don't get me wrong: working from home is and should be part of all future organizations. I was fortunate enough to have been at a progressive organization that embraced this back in 2013, and working remotely remains a huge morale booster for most employees. But it is just one option for workers – not the sole option or a silver bullet. The same holds true for education.
Think critically about takes that are overly simple. Lockdowns forever? People won't go out to eat? Really? The world is incredibly complex. Simple binary narratives make for easy headlines, but mask the truth. So look deeper. To where might companies relocate? Where are the bright spots? They are out there. Beware of overly simple takes on the "future of everything