By Michelle S. Royal
Countless economic development heads, leaders of entrepreneurs, and consultants of large companies are all dealing with the question: “How can I manage my personal stress, family stress, and community stress while social distancing and supporting other community members?” Business closures and economic downturns add financial pain to the uncertainty. All of this stress and uncertainty has surfaced a revealing question: “What does a virus crisis have to do with innovation?”
Innovation depends on ideas being mobilized, moving from person to person, being exposed to different people so the ideas can change to serve as many people as possible. Evolution is its essence. That requires that people communicate frequently, usually face-to-face in a familiar space. When people are kept from their customary ways of work, they begin to wonder what the work is, but the nature of the work hasn’t changed. It is still the sharing of ideas, which are now about level-setting and creating community and camaraderie around the challenges that we’re facing. Work is about solving problems together and taking action.
Just as ideas require a way to circulate to be effective, money has to move to create value. Whenever you immobilize money, you immobilize the exchange of value itself. We can see it happening. Restaurants and bars are being closed. Money isn’t moving into some of our local economic drivers. Companies are restricting funds because they are looking at a 3-to-6 month turnaround. These are not things to be afraid of. These are things to be aware of. These are things that are happening. It doesn’t mean that our ideas have to stop moving.
To keep ideas moving within our work life and our home life, we start with trust and honesty. We need to have open dialogue. We don’t need to have a feeling circle every second of every day, but ideas fuel off reality. They need “innovating from the now.” The ideas need to know that they are being seen and heard or worked with.
The ideas that will continue are the ideas that people are picking up and working on. Right now, people are spending a tremendous amount of time in meme culture. People are looking to laugh because the stress is so high; making laughter is a good fuel. I don’t know how memes are making anyone money, but they are certainly being shared widely and frequently.
In work culture, the ideas are about: What is the new information that is coming in? What decisions do we need to make around it? How do we move that forward? How do we manage the activities? What can we do in this time of great uncertainty? What do I have control over myself? What can I help lead in my team? How can I inspire others to reach beyond what seems like an impossibility in the moment? Typically it’s going to be smaller, simpler acts.
General George S. Patton said that “a good plan violently acted upon now is better than a perfect plan acted upon a week from now.” We want to take some educated action as soon as possible. We’re not going to have all the answers, but we all definitely have ideas on how to improve this overall experience either together or for our community as a whole or families. Just open the doors to share what you can share, either in your company or in your family, your home, or your community. This can be about making bread together or building a company together. It’s about making something new with the people and the ideas we have. That’s what a crisis virus has to do with innovation.
I’m not going to call this the greatest opportunity of our time because that might minimize what people are really experiencing in their hearts and their minds and their souls at this very moment. I will say: we have to keep moving forward with our ideas and our actions. I’ll continue to share tips on how we can make educated decisions without having all of the information or the answers.