Now is the time to plant the seeds of innovation. The pandemic has been too global and too prolonged to be considered just one of those temporary situations.
Better to forget the let’s-get-back-to-2019 prayers. They are filled with hopes of bringing back the the old routine of long-haul business flights, meeting rooms packed with people more focused on reading emails on their laptops than on listening to the people next to them. The Covid-19 exposed many truths and inconvenient habits of the old normality – why waste time and energy to preserve such a monumental and senseless play? Time to change the script.
But any change brings with itself a resistance. Think of people reluctant to wear face masks despite all the evidence of its crucial role to prevent the virus from spreading. Online learning vs school lessons, office meetings vs videoconferencing, fossil fuels vs renewables, Toyota vs Tesla. The gain of some is the loss of others.
Many sectors, organisations and firms are just expecting to restart the same business they had before the pandemic. All they need is to survive this bad patch. We have airline companies bombing the market with heavily discounted deals to get enough money to lead their business model untouched out of the storm. Whereas a few forerunners are already designing new layouts of aircraft or airports, assuming the past is in the past and the future is now.
Not only aviation is at a crossroad with opposite visions and strategies. The car sector is another visible example. Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda, is the head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. In December, the Toyota President and CEO made headlines with some comments over the intention of the Japanese government to ban combustion-engined vehicles by 2035. “Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power. And the more EVs we build, the worse the carbon dioxide emissions get. When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?”
Call it delaying the inevitable. In Norway, the market share of electric vehicles in 2019 was already nearly 43 per cent. The price gap between gasoline-powered vehicles and electric cars is narrowing, even if not as rapidly as some expected. But when a giant refuses to accept the evidence, the only certainty is that its fall will make a more noticeable and louder impact. To win any challenge you need to recognise it first.