While I continue to be concerned about daily events and signals, the majority of my conversations are now focused on the “new norm.” It may get worse in the near term, but none of us believe that this will be forever. There eventually will be a new norm, and its fabric will have new constraints and new opportunities. Much like the scar tissue that developed for many of us post 9-11, the generational trauma of the pandemic will touch generations today and in the future. But we, also, can touch future generations. We will be able to shape this new norm as people and as families, at work and in life. And I think it’s time to start brainstorming.
The first wave of the internet democratized information. The ability to Google anything meant that we didn’t actually have to remember anything, but we all had access to much of the same information. This also included access to product information and e-commerce. The next wave was focused on social connection. This meant we could engage with people we had never met in person, from communities all over the world.
And now, this pandemic is acting as a catalyst to complete the digital transformation of business models that were not executing on the society that we could be, given the technology available to us. Due to our unwillingness to start from scratch, we were holding on to business models that needed disrupting, still trying to monetize archaic systems.
A simple example is that we have watched higher education get more and more unaffordable. A great education has continued to evade people whose parents can’t buy their way in. There has been no incentive for higher education to move 100% online, and we’ve held on to an old business model. The near future could be that we can all go to Harvard!
Business models that could be reshaped: real estate brokerage, higher ed, retail, restaurants, movie theaters…
I remember some old show where the kid was caught smoking cigarettes. The dad made them sit there and smoke a whole pack. We have all wanted less screen time for ourselves—you know who you are—and for our kids. When you suddenly have way too much of something, the appeal can be lessened or lost. Coming out of this, I think we will all value time away from our screens. Buy REI stock (I’m kidding… or am I?).
Being stuck at home, many of us are cooking again. Maybe we realize those meal plan companies were not that great and that eating at home saves us a few bucks. It turns out we can all actually cook, if we make an effort. In recent years, we have outsourced so much of our lives to cleaning services, Crossfit coaches, eating out, etc. Maybe the convenience culture isn’t so convenient.
We are adapting to remote work. Our kids are going to school online. Great food and goods are being delivered to us. Are city centers a thing of the past? With home prices skyrocketing, maybe it’s time to move to the woods. Check out The Roaring 2000s: Building The Wealth And Lifestyle You Desire In The Greatest Boom In History by Harry Dent.
Built Environment Community Transformation
In a digital age, we have seen the number of conferences explode. The irony is that many are technology conferences. Maybe we don’t need to have so many… or any at all?
For the last 3 years, I have been building a community of investors, industry professionals, startups, and advisors with a single mission of innovating the built environment. Not so easy. But three years later, we have about 400 people in our global community. Not too shabby, but just the tip of the iceberg.
We designed a global platform leveraging Slack and Zoom. For qualified members, we made the financial barrier to entry low. We have created weekly shared experiences through webinars and AMAs (Ask Me Anything). These create consistent opportunities for collaboration.
The World is Flat: If you haven’t read Freidman’s book, now is a great time. The built environment is huge. It consists of different phases, roles, markets, and geography. It is the largest industry in the world, but the communities are hyperlocal. It’s very difficult to drive change in the built environment, but it is essential. Remember: How do you eat an elephant (or Woolly Mammoth)? One piece at a time.
These are just some ideas of how I plan on shaping my new norm. The opportunities are abundant. It is now time to start planning. How will you shape your future?