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Time to Strengthen the Basic Foundation

Time to Strengthen the Basic Foundation by Paulina Etxeberria

Can we learn something positive from this experience to improve our organizations, our management, our creativity, and our society? Paulina Etxeberria considers how for the first time in history, the consumption of paper is decreasing with our shift to the digital, and the opportunity to prepare the use of technology to increase productivity

by Paulina Etxeberria, Associate Professor at IE University.

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Every day, we are bombarded with very bad news: the number of COVID-19 cases is rising worldwide, health systems are overloaded, more and more people are dying, unemployment is up, and second-quarter economic growth is expected to be abysmal. This truly destructive global shock is forcing us to revise our economic and social expectations. Despite the dreadful nature of the current situation, we have an opportunity and an obligation to learn some important lessons from it.

We need to prepare to claw our way back from a very severe recession by finding new incentives to encourage us. Can we learn something positive from this experience to improve our organizations, our management, our creativity, and our society?

The world population has grown from 1.7 billion people in 1920 to 7.7 billion today. We live in vast conurbations; people and goods travel at high speeds from one continent to another; and we communicate instantaneously with words, images, and content of all sorts. Every day, more and more people are shopping online and checking their account balance or contracting other services via mobile telephone. Because of this, we have enormous amounts of data that allow us to understand how people move, what they consume, what their preferences are, and how they actually behave. In all professions, we are gradually changing our work methods and improving the organization and productivity of our companies.

Goodbye to paper

For the first time in history, the consumption of paper is decreasing in relation to global growth. We read digital newspapers, e-books, online articles, and blogs. We send each other emails, text messages, and videos. The entire teaching sector can continue its activity without using a single sheet of paper. At IE University, students and faculty have managed to continue their academic activities online in record time and without interruption.

How much time—and paper—would have been necessary just 20 years ago, if SARS had spread globally, for researchers and managers all over the world to share their knowledge and recommendations with us? How much would the educational quality of an academic year have suffered just 10 years ago if another coronavirus had forced us out of the classrooms?

Education, education, and education

Through our experiences in the midst of this catastrophe, we are learning that we have an opportunity to prepare to use technologies that allow us to save time and increase productivity, while at the same time cutting back on travel and reducing our consumption of raw materials. We are starting to see that it is possible to keep growing, while at the same time improving the living standards of 7.7 billion people, changing our consumption patterns, polluting less, and protecting ourselves from climate disasters and other pandemics.

The education system and training are the basic foundation for building and developing personal and collective opportunities, economic growth, and social cohesion. However, improvements in the digital education system can also exacerbate inequality. If we do not take steps to avoid this, there will be losers who will not be able or willing to join the collective effort to improve the well-being of society at large. We must think of them.