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The 'Rising Tide' Model of Change June 17, 2020

The 'Rising Tide' Model of Change

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George White

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This post was developed from an original thread George White (CIO, Cantina) / @Stonehippo wrote on Leaders of Awesomeness, a community of UX design, research, and content leaders.)

The recent disruption to assumptions and patterns that we have relied on is quite interesting to me. Based on some research we have done across a few industries, we are starting to think about a broad model for how change is happening right now:

  • “The Tsunami” - the sudden, short, fast, destructive wave driven by the sudden impact of the COVID-19 lockdown
  • “The Storm Surge”- a second wave, looming tall, just on the horizon (or perhaps starting to swell now), powerful, and carrying a lot of potential challenge and uncertainty
  • “The Rising Tide” - a third, much slower, longer-term wave that carries long-term, longer-lasting, and probably more profound changes

Graphic: Purple Waves showing Tsunami, Storm Surge, Rising Tide

The tsunami may largely have passed. There’s still a lot of damage in its wake, and it’s still having a deep effect day to day, but we have some idea of its main effects and can see how much damage it has wrought.

The storm surge is following pretty close behind. You can see it very clearly in places like education, where there is still an open question about things like returning to campus, and what role remote learning will play. What does, or could, September look like for schools and universities? The storm surge looks like it might cause a lot of churn, and our prep for it is hurried and maybe a little scattered.

The rising tide is the one where I think the deepest impact is going to come in. The tsunami was painful and terrifying, the storm surge is going to be a struggle, and both will drive immediate disruption and opportunity. But, it’s the rising tide that will carry the sustained impacts. For example, how might we change offices or factories when we need to maintain social distancing? How does fashion change when mask-wearing becomes a default? What could we do to take advantage of the reduction of car usage in cities? And so on.

This isn’t really a rigorous model, of course, but it’s helping us think a bit about what we are designing in response to each of these waves, how those designs might transition from one wave to the next, and what sort of scale and/or scope a design might need to address.

Does this model make sense? How might you adopt it in your own designs? And how has the pandemic crisis and response reshaped your thinking or approach to design?

Cantina wants to hear from you. As a strategic design and development consultancy, we work with companies at all stages of growth to define their strategy for continued innovation and market differentiation through optimization of customer experiences. Drop us a line if you’re interested in starting a conversation about showing the value of prototyping, innovating, and ideating.

Or, feel free to connect with me directly via Calendly to schedule a 30-minute online meeting. I look forward to our conversation.


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