7 Things That COVID-19 Is Teaching Us Today That Will Help Shape the Future

Massimo Passamonti

We will go through this. The world will re-emerge from this crisis much stronger and much more resilient than before. Things need to change though, and we need to start from politics and from entrepreneurship.

COVID-19 is a wake-up call for everyone. We all have a role to play in this.

As an engineer I have been trained to think in terms of “what-if” scenarios. What if the food supply breaks down, what if banks’ liquidity dries out, what if there is a cyber-attack, what if the internet shuts down? Now we all know what happens when a global viral pandemic breaks out. COVID-19 is a real opportunity to study the complexity of our world. It is an occasion to understand how intertwined our economies really are.

COVID-19 is a crash course on how the world will look like in the future. Here is why.


We need to scrap bureaucracy. In some countries, teleworking is not legally recognised, online medical prescriptions not authorised, doctor consultations over the phone not regulated, and public administration archaic. Governments are now obliged to fast-track decisions on these topics and find immediate and effective solutions.

Bureaucratic and never-ending government authorisation procedures are the norm in Italy and in many other European countries. It is easier for the Italian government to import face masks from abroad rather than giving authorisations to local manufacturers. This does not make sense. The government is reacting, and it might be the opportunity to re-invent administration, allow companies to be more effective, in sync with the new economic paradigm.

Politics also needs to create a more dynamic economic environment where industries and governments work together at an extraordinary pace to develop new products quickly. Employment needs to be rethought and cross-industry employment flow should become the norm.

The airline industry is at a standstill, but the airline industry has extraordinary logistics skills that are desperately needed by governments today to organise the prompt delivery of thousands of vital products, medicines and equipment across the world. Governments need to foster policies that allow industries to re-deploy skills easily across the economy.

We need to kickstart a new wave of entrepreneurship. Only two companies in Italy produce ventilators and ventilator masks and they cannot cope with the high demand. There is a global shortage for medical ventilators but two engineers in Italy did not stand still.

Driven by the intellectual challenge they re-engineered a cheap, widely available snorkelling mask with a 3D-printed adaptor and transformed it into a medical ventilator mask. Formula 1 teams have partnered up with universities and medical centres to use their know-how and help develop medical devices, too. This is the right spirit of entrepreneurship.

Right now is the moment for entrepreneurs to challenge what we have all learned in life: that we need to plan, research and test before we can come up with the perfect product.

Now is the time to stop thinking and start doing, and we need to do it fast.

There will be failures along the way, but the positives will outweigh the negatives and hopefully European governments will embrace the culture of failure and innovation, which we desperately need on the old continent.

We need to re-invent education. Providing education anytime, anywhere. Schools and universities have closed; lessons and courses have been moved online. Teachers and professors are rapidly learning how to keep on educating the world.

This is the opportunity to provide high-quality education to anyone in the world, not only to the few privileged who can afford to pay university fees, travel expenses, accommodation and books in top universities. It is the opportunity for major universities to deliver top education to underprivileged students around the globe, adapting university fees on the basis of local income and providing didactical material online.

We need to re-organise our cities and re-engineer logistics. Pollution in the heavily industrialised Northern part of Italy has dropped to record lows. Venice’s canals have clear water again due to less boat traffic. Online food shopping, Amazon deliveries, transportation within and across cities have been hit.

We need to re-think where we live and how we live. Moving everything online is certainly part of the future but ensuring a viable back-up plan in case things break down is a fundamental requirement which we cannot compromise. Local communities may come back and be part of our new future, providing basic and vital services. 

We must challenge traditional economic frameworks. It is certainly unprecedented that the world’s economy comes to a complete and immediate standstill. The financial system has not been designed to cope with abrupt interruptions.

Corporate revenues losses have already been priced in recent equity drops, but the market has not been able to fully price the extend of the damage yet because we are in unchartered territories.

Draghi recently pointed out that governments need to absorb corporate losses through the cancellation of private debt. Innovative lending plans and creative funding strategies need to be developed by countries around the world. It is time to be brave and to think out-of-the-box.

We need to re-think supply chain. Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Companies have understood that sourcing all materials and primary products from just one country represents a significant risk.

This is the opportunity for countries, all over the world, to re-position themselves as major supply chain providers for the world. It is the opportunity for companies in Asia, Africa and Latin America to showcase to the world that they can compete with China and that this is necessary to survive future supply chain shocks that could be even more severe than the one experienced recently.

We need to ret-hink the existing economic structure and find new ways to address future disruptions. Politicians are hinting at a semi-self-sufficiency policies as a solution for a more stable economic regime.

We must re-discover social interaction. Families are stuck home and they are learning how to co-exist again. Neighbourhoods are all of a sudden relevant again. The younger generation is again helping, supporting and protecting the older generation.

There is something a machine or a piece of software will never be able to replicate, and that is human interaction. The fundamentals of humanity, the feelings, are more important than ever and we are collectively re-discovering social interactions. Online toasts and parties organised on videoconferencing systems seemed unthinkable, but it has become reality. Technology can never replace human interaction but it is facilitating it.

Humans are incredible beings, able to react fast to unpredictable situations.

Progress, passion, ingenuity is what we excel at especially when we are in desperate situations of survival. We will survive this and in the process of doing so we will reboot the world. We will learn what was not working, improve ourselves and change our way of thinking and doing things.

The social cost of doing so will be high but the learning that will come as a result is priceless.

This is the opportunity for politicians and entrepreneurs to reboot the world, to start all over again and make things better and more resilient. Europe needs to think about the role it wants to play in the world and start working in unison.

We need politicians with a long-term view and an ambitious political project. We need entrepreneurs with courageous ideas and the right eco-system to implement them. Politicians need to create the conditions in which entrepreneurs can flourish and the whole society with it.

Those countries that will have the vision and the ambition to change will be the winners, and those who lack the vision and believe that we will return to “how things were” will be the losers.

It is time to look at the world today and accept that we are seeing our future.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-things-covid19-teaching-us-today-help-shape-future-passamonti/