Scott Galloway is a marketing professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the author of two bestsellers: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google and The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning. In addition to founding nine companies of his own, Galloway has served on the board of directors of The New York Times Company, Gateway Computer, and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He’s currently the host of two podcasts, Pivot and The Prof G Show.
Below, Scott shares 5 key insights from his new book, Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity (available now on Amazon). Or listen to our full podcast interview with Scott (ad-free) on the Next Big Idea App.
1. The pandemic is accelerating existing trends.
COVID-19 has initiated some trends and altered the direction of others, but its most enduring impact will be as an accelerant. Take any trend—social, business, or personal—and fast-forward ten years. Even if your company isn’t living in the year 2030 yet, the pandemic has spurred changes in consumer behavior and markets. This is clear in the rapid increase in online shopping, in the shift toward remote delivery of health care, and in the spectacular increase in valuation among the biggest tech firms.
2. The more disruptive the crisis, the greater the opportunities—and the risks.
Some firms, like The Four (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google), are positioned on the right side of business trends, and will be the primary winners of the pandemic. There’s also an opportunity for positive changes in society. Remote learning, for example, could reverse the shameful trend toward scarcity and exclusion that has dominated higher education for 40 years. My optimism on this is tempered, however: Many of the trends the pandemic has accelerated are negative, chiefly the widening inequalities of wealth, health, and opportunity. Policymakers will need to take concrete action to prevent a flawed economy from becoming a free-for-all.
“For decades, higher education has been sticking its chin farther and farther out. COVID-19 will be the fist that meets it.”
3. Key traits will determine who survives the crisis.
Companies with variable cost structures and asset-light models are more likely to make it through revenue declines. Products and services that give back time to people juggling work and schooling at home will be highly valued. And leaders who can increase employee satisfaction and innovation during the “great dispersion” of remote work will emerge with a potent new tool in their management toolkit. Most businesses that endure will benefit from some or all of these characteristics.
4. Higher education will never be the same.
For decades, higher education has been sticking its chin farther and farther out. (Just consider the fact that in the last 40 years, little about the college experience itself has changed, yet tuition has increased 1,400%.) COVID-19 will be the fist that meets it. The disruptability index for higher education is off the charts. What SARS was to e-commerce in Asia (Alibaba broke into the consumer space), COVID-19 could be to higher ed in the United States. The heart of the coming transformation of higher education is technology. As in so many other areas, the pandemic has forced the industry to adopt distance tech that faculty and administrators have resisted in the past. Schools and professors that take this new medium seriously will garner a huge advantage over the next few years, and their stakeholders will benefit. This is not only because online instruction can provide learning opportunities that classrooms don’t, but also because online education does something else. It scales. And that scale will allow individual institutions—and individual professors—to expand their reach exponentially. This provides the potential to correct one of the great inequities of the last half-century—the artificial scarcity of elite education.
“We must wrest our government from the hands of the shareholder class, which has co-opted it, and end the cronyism they have instituted to protect their wealth.”
5. Let’s take government seriously again.
The prescription for the pandemic is the same as the prescription for our broader illness—a wholesale renewal of our sense of community. We must wrest our government from the hands of the shareholder class, which has co-opted it, and end the cronyism they have instituted to protect their wealth. We must set aside our idolatry of innovators and look unflinchingly at the exploitation it promotes. In short, we need to take government seriously—as a respectable, necessary, and noble institution—so that we can return to taking capitalism seriously, as a vibrant, sometimes harsh, but productive system that betters lives.
How do we achieve that? To start, we should stop sending eighth graders into the NFL. Our idolatry of the rich convinces us that we need a “businessperson” to “straighten out” Washington. But running a business is not serving in political office, and our best presidents have been, not surprisingly, politicians. We also need to stop thinking of antitrust (breaking companies up) as a punishment. It isn’t. It’s oxygenation. When we broke up AT&T, we birthed seven firms that, in aggregate, were worth more than the original.
Even in this dark hour, there is cause for hope. Pandemics, wars, depressions—these shocks are painful, but the times that follow are often among the most productive in human history. The generations that endure and observe the pain are best prepared for the fight, so long as they embrace our species’ superpower: cooperation.
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