13 years ago, while the economy was in the grips of the inexorable slide into recession, I wrote a short article about them need for entrepreneurship in the face of adversity. In this current world, restricted by pandemic conditions, this is probably needed more than ever.
Here’s a sub quote by John F Kennedy (the journalist, not the President):
Enterprise and entrepreneurship are the antidote for unemployment and recession. Encourage people to use computers and broadband to beat the recession, they can work for anyone from anywhere. They can create businesses based on anything from selling stuff on eBay to using their intelligence to write, provide consultancy services or develop technology. This is the way out. Failure to provide them with the tools is economic sabotage. Let’s hope intelligence prevails.
In a Covid-restricted world, none of this is surprising. We have had the technology, if not the means to provide everything that’s been asked for and with business leaders claiming that productivity is up when workers are working from home, this could be a rare opportunity.
But it’s not all roses.
One of the things I’ve noticed from working and studying from home exclusively for nearly a year is that there is a noticeable decimation of serendipity. Those moments which can be inspirational are not happening. The water cooler moments. The flashes of inspiration when two workers collide. We can do our best to emulate these however through direct intervention, even when the only facetime we get is over a videoconferencing call.
My solution when working with startups and larger companies is that serendipity can be forced. This isn’t like trying to force creativity – and yes – I’ve been in the room when a senior manager has walked in and demanded everyone be creative for the next two hours, as they’ve just brought in the sandwiches. You can’t force creativity (it’s a muscle, just like every other muscle, you need to exercise it regularly), but we can force….or engineer serendipity.
We can provide the grist for the mill of creativity by making sure everyone has the opportunity to mix up with everyone. That includes reducing the enforcement of unreasonable company policies about being “online all the time or forcing everyone to turn their cameras on for the company Zoom meeting. It is absolutely about engaging people when they’re in their comfort zone to speak and helping realise that their discomforts are the engine of change.