How COVID-19 challenges organizations to re-define their role in the new normal.

Leveraging the power of deep human understanding

The challenge

We conducted a qualitative research study analyzing the impact of COVID-19 and to re-assess the essential human needs arising in ‚the new public life’.

The result

We identified strategic opportunity areas for organizations to re-define how they might engage people through design in the future.


COVID-19 and the collapse of sensemaking.


In our observation, the COVID-19 crisis has challenged many organizations not so much because it was a crisis per se, but because many of us knew and still don't know how to cope with it.

Usually, organizations follow - although paradoxically - the strategy of establishing routines to deal with crises. However, in the case of the COVID-19, it was impossible to establish common procedures because nobody had experienced anything similar before. In a way, people's sensemaking collapsed; and since this happened on a broad scale, it has not even been possible to find orientation looking at how other organizations managed the situation.



Organizations struggle for survival.


Indeed, in a long time organizations have not been forced to look more closely at what they are doing and how to move on than over the past year. 

While at first we were all busy introducing new formal structures, for instance for people to work from home, soon organizations started wondering how to even stay relevant in these disruptive times, and how to engage their customers in the future. Even the debate around the real purpose of organizations took a turn: the purpose is to exist. But what does the post-COVID reality look like? And how might organizations ensure their survival and create value in this future?

What is your role in the new normal?


One of the utility a crisis has is that it uncovers tracks that organizations, societies, cultures have been following previously; meaning a crisis makes visible what actually matters. Just think of when we realized the handshake's meaning in our culture, and the needs people have in relation to it. So the question is what we can learn about the future from assessing the essential human needs in times of crisis? 


To create a guide for organizations to explore new opportunities for the future, we have done research on the impact of COVID-19 on humans using the crisis as a chance to re-evaluate essential human needs that will drive the emergence of a new normal. We have inquired how people relate to the spatial surroundings of the 'new public life'. 


Drawing upon key concepts from the fields of sociology, anthropology, urban geography, and psychology, we present on the following page a selection of insights that highlight how the 2020 crisis may have impacted the development of people's concept of self, and how the new self causes incongruence given the spatial-material characteristics of the 'new urban life'.


Here you can flip through  the whole ‚field guide for innovation‘ booklet, including major insights that our research revealed:

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Going the extra mile in uncovering essential human needs is key for successful innovation design.

As designers, we are in the business of (re-) imagining what is possible (rather than what is probable). However, to design future experiences for people beyond the world’s expectations (that is, what is probable), it is crucial for us to transcend statistics, clichés, our own biases, and, instead, explore people’s real life experiences and gain a fresh understanding about their beliefs, values, desires, motives, emotions and needs.


To do this best, our research team consists of experienced design researchers, psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists. As we explore unknown territory, we generate deep insights, uncover needs, and strategically turn new understandings into concrete opportunities for innovation.

We are here to design the post-COVID reality with you.

  • (Visual) Ethnography
  • Cultural analysis 
  • Design Anthropology
  • Phenomenology
  • Human-centered design
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