Andrea Belk Olson headshot Andrea Belk Olson

The Post-Coronavirus Culture

The $64,000 question is what will things look like following the Coronavirus epidemic. More specifically, what will business look like, and how will customers change? Instead of focusing on specific tactics, we should look at how behavior will change and we can look to history to give us some insights. If we examine past generations that have experienced major events in their youth, we can glean a bit of insight as to the next wave of change.

Take the Boomers. Boomers are often associated with the counterculture of the 1960s, the civil rights movement, and the “second-wave” feminist cause of the 1970s. Early and mid-boomers experienced events like Beatlemania and Woodstock, organizing against the Vietnam War, or fighting and dying in the same war. Boomers were the inventors of the Apple II, the World Wide Web, and even Viagra.

Or the Gen Xers. As “latchkey kids”, they grew up through Carter and Regan. They experienced the early 1980s recession, where unemployment rose to 10.8%. They experienced the Great Recession in 2008 as they were just getting a foothold in the workforce. Gen Xers experienced the crack epidemic, the AIDS epidemic, and were the first generation to experience computers in schools.

The Millennials (or Gen Y) came of age in a time where everything began to be affected by the Internet. Growing up in a wholly digital era, they experienced underemployment, where in April 2012, it was reported that half of all new college graduates in the US were still either unemployed or underemployed. They pushed for a stronger work-life balance and have a larger set of expectations of employers, including more social responsibility.

Now it’s Gen Z. The Economist has described Generation Z as a more educated, well-behaved, stressed, and depressed generation in comparison to previous ones. Mental depression has been said to be more common among Generation Z than any previous generation, with increased technological and online dependence and decreased face to face interaction. They experienced 9/11, school shootings, Hurricane Katrina, and the rise of social media. And now, Coronavirus.

So what does this all mean? That every generation, especially when they are at that 20-30 year age bracket, responds to major events by being the catalyst for change. Boomers focused on invention and business. Gen X and Millennials focused on society and technology. Now it’s Gen Z’s turn.

This epidemic is a life-changing experience for all of us, but as a young person, it can be the catalyst for changing and transforming your life’s direction. As the next generation to be entering the workforce, Gen Z will be thinking about how this epidemic has impacted their lives and acting on ways to change the future.

What will this look like? While there’s no way to know the specifics, if we look back at history, Gen Z will likely look at technologies, businesses, and behaviors that focus on protecting income and savings, specifically financial security. They will examine with more scrutiny on what they need to spend their money on, and what isn’t needed. They will focus on creating solutions to eliminating bureaucracy and simplifying communications and the transmission of information. They will be examining new innovations in medicine and health. They will also be much more sensitive to honesty and transparency in leadership.

What can your business do to look ahead and address the future needs and demands that will be rapidly growing in importance? Can your organization begin some of these transformations today, not only to get ahead of the curve but also to enable the onboarding of the next generation of innovators? Because it’s worth using history to your advantage.


About the Author

Andrea Olson is a strategist, speaker, author, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO at Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers and No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineCustomer Experience MagazineIndustry Week, and more. Andrea is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, a TEDx presenter and TEDx speaker coach. She is also a mentor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

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