Blessings, Curses, Co-operation and Collaboration – the Virus is Forcing Knowledge upon us

Covid-19No one was expecting this. No one knows what will happen next. Does that make this a time to hunker down and wait, to stand on something and watch, or to gamely strive for business-as-usual-as-possible?

In that most nebulous and non-committal of comebacks: it all depends.

Hunkering down is kind of a no-brainer in social-isolation terms; it may also have potential as a COVID-19 “emergency business plan”. Rather than swimming against the current to keep the company spark alive, it may be wise to wait this one out – depending on innumerable factors, including industry, sector, and the amount of available fat to live off.

Business-as-usual is already an outdated term; for many, it will never be “usual” again. Companies are going to the wall left and right, and those that aren’t are looking over their shoulders to check that the wall isn’t coming to them. These are times that test mettle, and failure is not a given. The cross-pollination of sectors, the enforced creativity that springs from quarantined and embattled minds, the sheer resilience of individuals, SMEs, companies, corporations and organisations – these are the flags under which survivors fly.

There’s nothing, unfortunately, like chaos and disaster to engender unity and harness initiative. And that paradoxical springboard, coupled with new awareness of the fragility of our apparently immutable society, might just take us to interesting and inspiring places.

Co-operation, Collaboration and Control are the key C-words of 2020. We’re seeing plenty of the first two, and – with enforced constraints on personal and professional agency – are struggling a bit with the last one. No one likes feeling out of control, and no one likes to be controlled either. We have had to get used to both aspects, and quickly.

It’s inspiring to see isolated, ever-busy entrepreneurs and engineers turning a hand – or their factories – to new things. Developments which might otherwise make a splash are relegated to run as footnotes to the disaster stories and grim predictions. Human spirit, invention and business nous can neither be bottled nor repressed. Some things just bubble up, others are cunningly and carefully engineered. Staying operational – and profitable – is the main goal.

The rest may not be cake, but it will be progress. The old “Chinese curse” was often quoted as, “May you live in interesting times”. The phrase has been shown by literary research not to be of Chinese origin – and these interesting times may prove not to entirely be a curse, either.


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