Thinking Inside the Box Helps to Kickstart Innovation

While it is difficult to look beyond all the enormous negative consequences of the Covid-19 crisis to see anything positive, there will be some good that comes from it.

As we begin to emerge, perhaps now is the time to focus on the possibility of a Covid-19 ‘dividend’ and examine what benefit might derive from the crisis that would not have otherwise arisen? Locate East Sussex Programme Director Philip Johnson ponders.


If there is anything positive, it is the sense of community and co-operation that we have seen in East Sussex

Innovation Blog

Date of Publication
June 4 2020
Philip Johnson

What has been done now

Doubtless there will be improvements made to our systems of health and social care and inevitably solutions will be created that would not have come about if it were not for the crisis, if for no other reason than to prepare us better for and protect us from any further pandemic.

More immediately, however, if there is anything positive, it is the sense of community and co-operation that we have seen in East Sussex, the generosity and support for those that serve our communities and the renewed appreciation of the importance of the place in which we live and work.


'Outside the box?' 

It is a bit of a cliché that to come up with novel solutions, it is necessary to think 'outside the box'.

There are, however, plenty of indications that creativity and innovation can thrive in exactly the opposite conditions.

Studies some years ago by a well-known firm of management consultants examined how innovation occurs. In looking at how new solutions came about, it concluded that innovation did not arise from thinking openly and freely but instead, solutions came from having to think within an alternative framework. In this sense, Covid-19 is making us think ‘inside the box‘ and challenging our conventional approaches. 


Evidence of how current circumstances are forcing new ideas for local businesses is plentiful. Companies that have been able to keep operating have rapidly adapted to working within the guidelines for lockdown.

Some became more digital in the space of three weeks than they had been in the preceding three years.

Participating in meetings using Teams and Zoom has become a part of most working days, as has joining webinars to train, learn, network and even socialise with colleagues.

From pubs and cafés that are offering take away or home delivery services, to farm shops that have developed a click and collect service, to the more high-tech sector where companies are reshaping their production schedules to manufacture sanitiser, components for ventilators or PPE for the NHS, businesses are responding positively to the needs of their existing and new customers and those of the wider community.


We can all only hope that Covid-19's acute threat to our health and society is over soon. For companies operating in our local economy, it is essential that the derivative effects for creativity and innovation that have grown over the past few weeks remain and become part of a new way of working.

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