Necessity is the mother of invention — How a pandemic could help change the face of future business

Updated: Mar 24



We live in extraordinary times. I think I have said this more times than I care to have done in the past year. Suddenly with the appearance of an unknown, as yet incurable virus being publicised across the world, Brexit feels like it is the last thing we are now all interested in. I guess only a deadly virus could stop that debate, finally. I suppose in a funny way, it is a leveller, something to remind us we are all human no matter what our political beliefs. That when it comes to the crunch, we all have a common goal — the desire to survive and evolve in the face of adversity.


Like many others, of course, an unknown illness is scary. I fear for the vulnerable and those in older age with health problems (as for many other illnesses like flu). But what frightens me the most is the hype around it. It’s easy to start to feel crippled by the every day doom and apocalypse gloom.


As a small business, still in it’s first 10 years, we have worked hard to build our reputation and products as well as an amazing team who have fire in their belly about the world of Brand Employee engagement and Culture. But suddenly it all feels at risk, because our business is largely based on face to face workshops and get togethers. We are in the business of helping businesses be more human…and this involves actually seeing each other and having human interactions. As we have found with our own business, even people who work from home need interventions to make sure they feel connected to the outside work, part of a community and not let cabin fever set in.


However, once I calm the demons in my head, and I chat to the rest of our team, I realise that all is not lost. As a ‘pirate’ workforce ourselves, we are trying to build a beautiful business that challenges usual stereotypical business norms such as not needing an office with a 9-5, 5 day a week expectation. To show that businesses can thrive without an office. There are several things that mean there could be a phoenix from the Corona ashes. That this could be a big opportunity for businesses being forced by a changing variable we didn’t expect:


1. GETTING CREATIVE — We practice what we preach and employ people who are better than us as the leaders. They have ideas and energy we have not considered to help us fight this latest challenge. Being brave and showing a little leadership vulnerability by involving them to help solve this problem means we not only have 2 heads coming up with ideas – but 15 up for the challenge.


2. REAL LIFE RADICAL THINKING — In many of our workshops, we try to challenge leaders to step out of their comfort zone by radically changing one of the pillars that makes up their business. By doing this, it forces you to think creatively about how you might do things differently. For us, this is face to face working. It has forced us to develop ideas about how we engage and build high performing cultures for teams not all sat next to each other in an office. This is something we are already passionate about. The difference being this is a real life scenario. Innovation is the pursuit of doing things better. By being forced to change the variables, will mean we can evolve in ways we hadn’t planned before, making us stronger.


3. KEEP LEARNING & GROWING — People are still motivated by the same things as they have always been. Purpose, mastery & autonomy. This doesn’t change if their working environment changes. Being able to perform at their best every day if they aren’t sat in an office is important, but most will struggle with a change. Learning and growing will be never more important especially for younger generations who want to continue to learn and grow and feel empowered. You may need to consider giving advice to those not used to a change in routine or remote working, some top tips about how to feel connected and how to make the most of their new environment.


4. THE GIFT OF TIME Hands up who loves a day of back to back meetings? When we work with teams to help them build steps towards achieving their goals and ask them what gets in the way, you can guarantee that ‘time’ is the number 1 factor given. ‘Too many meetings’ they all shout. If we head into lock down of offices, then what a perfect way to have some time to think and plan. Suddenly we all have the gift of time. Our usually packed diaries will open up and we can be more efficient — Google Hangouts and conference calls don’t seem to have the same automatic assumption they will be an hour long – in fact, Zoom has a 45 minute cut off as standard. What better way to think big and creatively and be reminded of what matters. It’s a chance to reset, reprioritise and break old habits.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. We are now facing even more perpetual change and exceptional circumstances, much of which we can’t possibly predict. Maybe this is a chance for us all to reframe how we do things a little differently, so we may come out the other side feeling stronger and more able to grab new opportunities. This in turn may help us do our best work and make a difference in the world around us.


I hope we look back in 6 months and realise that when life is scary, being brave, working together to look for the opportunities and adapting our ways of working is what has helped us thrive again and boost us to new levels. Not least to have a media detox once in a while. We live in extraordinary times…


By Imogen Pudduck, March 2020

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