We’re living through unprecedented times as the COVID-19 pandemic takes grip, rearranging our day-to-day lives at breathtaking speed. The world is an uncertain place right now – with many of us now part of the coronavirus-enforced experiment in working exclusively from home. For some, this newfound status is a shock, with many of us still adjusting to the new normal, juggling home schooling and leading virtual teams.
While a lucky few will be pondering over Joe Wicks’ PE lessons for kids or whether to opt for the paradise island or city apartment conference call background, others, understandably, are battling with new anxieties and challenges around the health and wellbeing, as well as working lives, of their families and wider communities.
In these unprecedented times – how should we as individuals and society respond to such a public health emergency? And what resources can we draw on to help us find hope and forge meaning as a global community?
In addition to the official government advice, there has been much rhetoric around “Keeping Calm and Carrying On”, a nod to a wartime slogan that conveys a sense of national pride and harks back to an idea of Brits as sturdy, resilient folk. Interestingly, many think the slogan comes for World War Two (tough talk in the face of Nazi invasion) but its roots have actually been traced back to comments made in 1918 by Sir Arthur Newsholme, Britain’s chief medical officer at the time, in response to the outbreak of Spanish flu during World War One.
It’s no surprise that these viral phrases are often coined by the military, as the ability to lead through change and innovate is something that only accelerates during wartime, as does the need for effective communications. Another example is the acronym VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) first appeared in the media in 1987 by the Army War College – a ubiquitous term that could probably describe the experience of every generation, now perhaps somewhat overused in mainstream business media.
A time of creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness
Whether you agree with the concept of VUCA or not, the world we live in today is changing rapidly. Stoic notions of carrying on as before, while admirable, are not the only priorities in a crisis. The ability to innovate and co-create is enabling organisations and government departments to survive a whole range of different disruptions and respond at lightning speed.
Here in London alone, we’ve just built a coronavirus hospital with 4,000 beds at the ExCel centre in just nine days. Possibly the most ambitious medical project we’ve seen since the end of the second world war, the hospital is now by far the largest in the UK.
We’ve seen Formula One race teams, including McLaren, Red Bull and Williams, work with the UK government and health authorities to produce more ventilators for intensive care units. University College London engineers worked with UCLH and Mercedes Formula One to create breathing aids in under a week. According to Prof Rebecca Shipley, Director of UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, such an unprecedented rapid response was achieved through reverse-engineering an existing device.
China has made a number of contributions, such as a $500 million loan to help Sri Lanka combat the virus and sending 100,000 rapid diagnostic tests to the Philippines. We’ve also heard that China’s President Xi Jinping proposed creating a ‘Health Silk Road’ while on a call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
It’s not just governments and health authorities responding. Companies are re-thinking how they better use their resources to support communities and respond to the crisis. Perfumeries and breweries have turned to producing hand sanitiser. Fashion designers are now manufacturing face masks. Bars and restaurants how now become takeaway outlets. Local communities are coming together and forming WhatsApp groups to share ideas, support each other and look out for vulnerable neighbours.
The level of ingenuity and creativity is astounding. Take the two inventive Italian engineers, who have used 3D printing to develop a valve to swiftly make respirators to help improve survival rates of coronavirus patients. We’ve also seen virus-killing scarves produced, hands-free door handles and wrist-mounted disinfected sprayers. Furniture makers, small businesses, AI software developers and members of the public – people from around the world are working together to adapt existing products or invent new.
While every country is at a different stage of the coronavirus pandemic, every aspect of society and business is responding. It is truly a global issue that requires widespread collaboration to address the virus itself and find ways to manage the aftermath.
Solving challenges together
Widespread global collaboration is also taking place in an effort to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Which is why, through our partnership with InnoCentive, we’ve been mobilising our network of global solvers together with our clients and wider stakeholders to creatively tackle and provide solutions for the some of the biggest challenges we’re facing right now.
By using open innovation to co-create with different people, we can solve issues at a faster, more effective rate – something which is being proven on a daily basis. If we truly want to come together to solve the issues we’re facing today, then we need to work together as one smart crowd.
We’re running a number of challenges on our global platform - from vaccines and ventilators, to remote working and isolation – as well as broadcasting a rallying cry to anyone who wants to become a Solver and contribute.
If you want to help, you can sign-up as a Solver on our global platform, view the challenges and register as a Solver here. Be part of the change. As we’re seeing on a daily basis, we’re stronger together.