There is no doubt a crisis galvanizes the vast majority of people into action.
People have proven time and time again, when faced with a real and immediate threat, the ability to adapt and innovate at rapid rates.
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting or will impact every country and maybe multiple times (I hope I am wrong), there are incredible examples of Rapid Innovation for solving critical issues (Wicked Problems). Cross-collaboration, multi-skilled, and experienced teams from unrelated industries are all trying to solve problems faced by governments, schools, medical teams, and organizations as a whole.
We have automotive manufacturers manufacturing ventilators, and we have seen various military teams from multiple countries provide protective equipment via their supply chains. We have witnessed textile manufacturers making face masks and also retail chains innovate when facing stockpile purchasing rushes.
In Australia, we have seen state and federal governments put their political and regional biases aside for the good of all. One can argue that in itself is innovation in the current global political environment.
A global political environment that has seen small-minded and means political arguments of building walls, and demonizing people wanting/needing to risk their lives for a better life, become justifiable.
We have seen C-level executives supported by their boards take ridiculous wages and other bonus schemes, while in many cases, their own workers fight to gain a basic increase that keeps up with inflation.
In the last twenty years, we have seen examples of selfish behaviour having disastrous effects on the broader community. Enron of the early 2000s, the actions of banks and lenders leading up to the Global Financial Crisis and banks such as Citi (not the only ones) knowingly involved in money laundering for drug cartels.
Of all these events, only a handful of people were sent to jail for their actions. How can that reflect our values?
We have seen political parties recently drive economic and tax reform or halting it in some cases for the betterment of a small percentage of the population. All the while, teachers, health workers, childcare workers, carers, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and marginalized communities are left behind. They have struggled to have their pay increases brought in line with inflation.
All while we discover the selfish and intentional corporate structuring to offshore tax havens and lower taxation regions to ensure no-to-low taxation is paid.
Ironically, the very people left behind are the ones asked by governments to risk it all. Every day they continue to risk their lives and directly risk their family's lives to serve our community.
We have seen incredible social innovation through the use of technology such as WhatsApp, social media platforms, and online meeting software to connect people. At the same time, local groups support those most vulnerable and in need.
With a vaccine potentially twelve to eighteen months away, I am sure we will see an even more crystalized idea of what is essential. A greater focus on resources to solve the next raft of problems. If innovation requires collaboration, and it does, will we see innovation that drives better outcomes for our communities? Dare I say Social Innovation that drives better outcomes for all?
And if we experience what we can achieve with COVID-19, maybe we can pick another COVID and another and another... Other COIVD's such as;
Greater shared economic wealth;
Better environmental practices;
A greater understanding of mental health issues;
Lifting billions of people out of abject poverty;
Structural reform and support for families so both men and women can enjoy true choices;
Eradication of violence and sexual assault;
The elimination of slavery; and
Greater access to education and health care and greater support for those who provide it.
And there is a heap more!
These are our COVIDs beyond this pandemic, and they will all require the same focus and energy to innovate to solve. If we do, the world we inherit from our children may not be wasted.
About the Author
Adam Ryan is a Professor of Practice (Adjunct Professor) at Monash University and is a principal at Watkins Bay. He has over twenty years of start-up experience in Australia and the USA. An expert in company structuring for innovation and capital for early to growth-stage businesses.
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