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COVID-19 may drive us apart today, but could it bring humanity closer?

Everybody has a plan – until they don’t. In a hypercomplex and equally connected world, expecting the unexpected is prudent. Except that politically, environmentally and now epidemiologically, we didn’t see global issues coming until they were all too real. As a Trust Futurist, I believe our choices reveal what we value and trust. Psychologists will tell you that this is often short-term gain at the expense of our long-term future, but the last thing you and I need right now is a pessimist stance.

We need a plan.

Here’s my take: Everyone’s trying to do the right thing, and it’s worth celebrating all these success stories and acts of kindness. We seem to have learned from the GFC that waiting out a crisis by looking the other way is about the worst posture we can assume. Instead, airlines and hotels are issuing refunds they don’t have to, retailers in many places are donating items they could sell, and news publications are lifting their paywalls to keep us informed. On the flipside, overwhelmed legislators are taking drastic measures and making decisions at speeds political systems usually cannot take. Unsurprisingly, this means that the proactive measures taken voluntarily across industries have greatly relieved the negative effects of mandatory restrictions.

We seem to have learned from the GFC that waiting out a crisis by looking the other way is about the worst posture we can assume. Instead, airlines and hotels are issuing refunds they don’t have to, retailers in many places are donating items they could sell, and news publications are lifting their paywalls to keep us informed. Philipp Kristian

Tough times like these call upon all of us to get out of our seats set aside individual differences and do what is right for the greater good. Every initiative we take to help will ease our shared global burden. It means that relying on governments to bail us out of the situation isn’t going to do it. Although many societies rely heavily on distrust-driven measures to regulate behaviour, i.e. constraining people with penalties or prohibitions, we should embrace the unifying power of a common enemy to proactively come up with creative solutions in our fight against this pandemic. It’s an opportunity to dramatically accelerate our digital shift, embrace the future of work and make our value propositions more resilient. Equally, we can use the power of digital to influence communities towards adopting the right behaviour beyond just pure compliance. Self-control and following rules aren’t one and the same, because the former requires that we care. Never before was it more important to care for our fellow human, wouldn’t you agree? Focusing on the opportunity at hand will lock our attention on more productive pursuits than resenting restrictions. It will give us a universal purpose.

The courage to embrace something new and willingness to collaborate will require us to trust each other and our shared contribution to the solution. When we look at the sharing mindset that the Trust Economy has inspired us to adopt in recent years, the benefits are obvious. Until recently, the distrust economy got away with the notion that rules are all we need and if we act selfishly in the market, that will suffice to create a collective gain. But if we try to apply this purist take on economics to COVID-19, we might as well hoard all the toilet paper we can find and prepare for the apocalypse.

But I’m not just a trust futurist, I’m also an eternal optimist. My home base of Singapore has shown how a balance of well-designed rules and precautions (reactive measures) and public mobilisation (proactive encouragements) are fruiting to contain the viral spread. Beyond all this fire-fighting and fire-prevention, we should take this time to rethink what really matters and become more proactive in how we manage crises, create change and shape our shared future. Let’s connect on the how :)

Philipp Kristian Diekhöner is a Trust Futurist, Innovation Strategist, TEDx Speaker and Author of The Trust Economy.

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