Learnings from Covid-19

Efma feature

11 May 2020

Dionis Guzman is a futureproof educator at ISDI.education interested in the intersection between the future of work and the future of education. Below, he explains the profound impacts the current pandemic is having on the education and working world. And how to Futureproof yourself.


You probably agree with me that we humankind we are now facing a global crisis and it’s perhaps the biggest crisis of our entire generation. However, I think that we are somehow facing and dealing with a tremendous opportunity to learn of what’s going on because this unexpected situation is putting us on a scenario which is so different that I think that if we are able to extract and get the right learnings we could be much more prepared, better prepared for similar events happening in the near future. That’s why as a professional educator I’ve decided to approach this unique situation of the Covid-19 pandemic doing one of the things I can see that I do best which is learning about something. The result of this learning process are the ones that I’m going to share with you in this article where I’m going to share not only facts and figures but also insights as well as my very personal opinion.

In order to explain this better I would like to use two concepts: the black swan on the black elephant but it can help all of you to have a better understanding of what I mean. The black swan is a concept that I would like to utilize in order to question ourselves how unpredictable this Covid-19 situation really was. The black swan concept was popularized by professor Naseem Nicholas Taleb back in 2007 before the 2008 financial crisis and basically he describes the black swan as an event which is beyond normal expectations and it’s so so rare and even the possibility that it might occur is unknown and it has a catastrophic impact when it does occur as is going on with COVID19 so just to share here one of my questions with you I’m not really sure if this event was that unpredictable.

That’s why I would like to take a closer look to a different concept which is the black elephant and a black elephant as noted by Vinay Gupta is an event which is extremely likely and widely predicted by experts but people attempt to pass it off as a black swan when it finally happens. Personally speaking I truly think that maybe we have the opportunities to pay attention to very clear signals and shreds of evidence from the past that could probably help us as humankind to be ready for today situation or for this pandemic, of course, I’m not saying that this would have been predictable but maybe we could have prepared ourselves better.

Let me share with you which are the signals I think might helped us to understand why this situation is more a kind of black elephant than a black swan instead.

Signal #1: Zoonotic viruses

Zoonoses diseases are estimated to cause 2.5 billion cases of illness per year plus 2.7 million deaths.

Activities that increase our opportunity for animal-human interactions also likely facilitate zoonotic disease transmission and that would include the markets that sell wildlife for trade or the already popular wet markets.

Signal #2: Chronological pattern

If we analyze the previous two decades of this 21st century we can clearly see that in the first decade we had three strains, two in the second decade between 2010 and 2019 and we’ve started this 20’s with the biggest pandemic ever. However, please notice that in every decade we’ve just been in contact with a type of coronavirus: first SARS in the 2000s, then MERS in the 2010s and today…Covid-19.

Signal #3: Geographical pattern

Asia and especially China have become the main source of the last zoonotic virus strains.

“What if?” times are over…welcome to the “What’s next?” era:

I am afraid climate change warning times are over…or what I call the “What if?” era.

We will have to deal with the consequences of the way we’ve decided to occupy this planet and facing the new events to come…preparing ourselves as humankind to deal with the “What’s next?” era. It might be a new pandemic, new viruses, sea levels rising…whatever is coming through we should assume it is just a matter of time.

Business opportunities awaiting post-COVID19:

· Rise of Veganism: roaring market worldwide

· Lab engineered meat: Studies indicate that lab-grown meat might require far less energy than poultry such as ducks or chickens*. Compared to conventional meat, greenhouse gas emissions for in vitro meat would be up to 96% lower. Lab-grown protein is not only focused on meat, fish or seafood protein with no mercury traces, and vegetables are also being tested in many labs for the same purpose.

· Personal cars back to sales: commuters who previously took a crowded bus or train may feel uncomfortable doing so for a while. Abandoning mass transit is terrible from an environmental and traffic perspective, but after a public health crisis, people will probably feel safer traveling in their own cars.

· Rise of single transportation: if borders are closed again, trains are not connecting main cities and most public transportation is down…maybe some alternative ways of car-based transportation will be required. Maybe not only for humans but also for goods of any kind.

· A-Commerce: autonomous cars and robots are delivering goods facilitating no human interaction at all.

· Shopstreaming: few sectors are safe from the fallout of the pandemic, but entrepreneurs around the world are following China’s lead by embracing shopstreaming, the perfect fusion of retail and entertainment for quarantined, mobile-welding, video-hungry shoppers.

The ILO Monitor 2nd edition: Covid-19 and the world of work , which describes Covid-19 as “the worst global crisis since World War II”, updates an ILO research note published on March 18th. The updated version includes sectoral and regional information on the effects of the pandemic.

According to the new study, 1.25 billion workers are employed in the sectors identified as being at high risk of “drastic and devastating” increases in layoffs and reductions in wages and working hours. Many are in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, where a sudden loss of income is devastating.

Most professionals will have to evolve and be able to create, generate and capitalize their own business opportunities. The old economy has not taught us how to do that so it is time to start unlearning…is time to learn how to be futureproof.

In order to become Futureproof we need to cultivate the ability of anticipation as a key skill. We cannot longer wait for new disruptive trends or technologies risking our employability. We have anticipation to foresee what’s coming in 5 to 10 years so we can combine with current assets in order to create a unique value proposition that carefully adapted to today’s reality can better prepare us for times to come. This overall time-based holistic plan combining future, short term, and today is key for this new Employability 3.0 era but…how to do that? Thanks to learnability.

My formula for tomorrow’s employability is quite simple: be in “Permanent Beta”…that means we’re constantly open. We must be agile learners and be open to new information and train the ability to gain and apply insights derived from it. We must not be distracted by shifts in direction but we need to be fast in noticing those changes. I am sure that if we decide to take the right risks some interesting rewards will follow. Permanent Beta is, by far, the best way to deal with the constant uncertainty of present times, especially in the post-Covid-19 times.

Upskilling and Reskilling are yet old economy concepts that denote a reactive attitude: I need something so I acquire that skill. I have to change my role so I gain new abilities. Uncertainty is awaiting and we must shift to a proactive mode being ahead of time: PREskilling means we follow a North Star which tells us what to do in order to be futureproof.

We are facing a new development model: people own their careers now, not companies. And that changes everything. That’s a BIG shift.

My personal opinion is that most organizations are still lost, still somehow stuck in the previous economy and too blocked or lost or frightened or ignorant to decide how they should move forward. Maybe our employers will not be as ready as we need them to be and we, as employees and professionals we need to find our own way to overcome this new future of work in which uncertainty is going to be more present than ever.

As a consequence I suggest starting claiming the ownership of our employability ourselves and moving away from this paternalistic tradition of waiting for our employers to tell us what to do and to instruct us about what’s better for our future.

Having a very personal value proposition is key…the right combination of assets, interests, and abilities. It is time to unlearn and explore edges, sniffing new opportunities ahead, and taking ownership of our own professional identity.
1. Audit: list down your assets…audit yourself thoroughly to identify what you already achieved.
2. Craft: review and revisit what you have to identify what’s missing and what do you need to accomplish your goal.
3. Futureproof: let the world and the market know your very unique value proposition is ready.


You can watch the entire 44' video here:


Keywords : Covid-19 , Workforce management

Geography : International