A burst of creativity to best a virus

From mastering Zoom at home to inventing anticoronavirus vaccines, people are using the crisis to be more open to inspiration.

AP
General Motors workers receive instructions on how to make a hospital ventilator at the GM Kokomo, Ind., manufacturing facility.

In just a few short weeks, millions of people in home isolation have mastered video conferencing. Out of curiosity, many have found innovative ways to bake or to learn a language. Out of necessity, parents are discovering how to home-school. Out of ingenuity, the religious faithful are creating new ways to worship.

With similar speed, Ford Motor Co. has learned how to make face shields for health workers. More doctors are doing medicine by phone. Dozens of companies are racing to invent new ways to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. And in California, a charitable foundation has sponsored a global contest among 6,000 “tech minds” to innovate open-source solutions to the coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19 may be a disrupter of lives and traditions but, as in many crises, it is forcing people to be open to inspiration and to locate the source of creativity. In its global scope, the burst of improvisation could be historic. It will not only help people through the crisis, the fresh discoveries and the sudden embrace of imagination should spur an economic rebound, perhaps even more than government subsidies.

“With imagination, we can do better than merely adapting to a new environment – we can thrive by shaping it,” states an article in the latest Harvard Business Review. The authors, Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller, suggest people carve out time for reflection and search for needs in society that remain unmet. “We need to open up rather than constrict the funnel for new ideas,” they write.

Many people may simply desire a return to normalcy. Yet with so many problems exposed by this crisis, the search for solutions has taken on a purpose described well by Shakespeare: “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”

“Amid all the confusion and the fear,” states a commentary from the think tank Rand, “the power of individuals, organizations, and communities to think differently and to innovate shows what can be achieved when people are united by common, clear priorities and necessity.”

The old ways found wanting are giving way to the new. The greatest victory over the virus may be a steep learning curve among billions of people on the origin of inspiration.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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