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Lessons from Quarantine, Part I: Prepare for the Future

May 22, 2020

By Jim Palumbo

In the first of a three-part series, Principal and Chief Development Officer Jim Palumbo shares his personal life lessons from quarantine as well as his views on the road ahead, the “new normal.”


At a time when local economies are in various phases of re-openings (or not), many of us remain both fearful and unsure about the future. We are facing extraordinary uncertainty regarding our health, business, career and education. During these disruptive times, I’d like to share some lessons from my time in quarantine with my family: No. 1, prepare for the future.

1. Prepare for the Future

“Think of it like preparing for final exams,” said my partner, Jim Cannon, when I asked him what he thought was the best way to thrive under quarantine. He continued, “Use your quarantine time to prepare for the new normal.” Prepare yourself, your family and your business for the future.

In the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, we may see our society shifting norms or accelerating the existing migration from traditional manufacturing that requires a lot of physical human contact, to automation and robotics along with a radical transformation of the industrial spaces they occupy. i We will likely see increased investment into biotech in reaction to the massive impact of COVID-19 worldwide. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, remote work, virtual work environments and automation to support social distancing may also accelerate its ubiquity. ii

Will demand for crisis-related products and services increase in the days and years to come? Will certain research and development sectors take-off after the pandemic? The University of Twente in the Netherlands has recently partnered with three SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the areas of biophotonics, developing handheld instruments that can detect a virus in the air.

The university’s surrogate, Ostendum, developed a prototype in 2017. Do you think technologies like this will be important in the coming days? Will the workplace model be changed forever? How can you position yourself and your business for the future and to be ready to take advantage of this new paradigm?

The highest concentration of coronavirus deaths has been in nursing homes, prisons and houses of worship. iii What will this mean for the future of these institutions? Is it possible that home-health will replace nursing homes, criminal rehabilitation will become less centralized and worship become more virtual? Is now the time to start an unskilled home health agency, or post-release housing or reentry services for ex-cons? Is it time to start a business providing digital solutions to churches? Only 22% of churches livestreamed services before the Coronavirus crisis, and even less have digital mobile engagement.

With the shift from globalism to favoring what some call certified democracies to supply America with critical goods and services, does that mean that Chinese manufacturing is over? What will this mean for emerging markets and growth?

While these are frightening and dangerous times, the end of a crisis always presents opportunities to those that look ahead and prepare. Eisenhower famously said, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” Spend your down-time preparing for the opportunities of the new, post-pandemic economy. Use the current downtime to retool yourself and your business to be ready for this new context. Get ready, the future is moving fast.

  1. i.
  2. ii. How the Coronavirus Is Already Rewriting the Future of Business, Dina Gerdeman, Harvard Business School
  3. iii.