The global jolt toward creative thinking

The coronavirus shock has forced fresh approaches to almost all aspects of life. Why not celebrate it – and keep innovating?

Reuters
Residents in Jeaumont, France, use vending machines to buy protective face masks and other anti-coronavirus gear.

Right now around the world one of the largest creative exercises of the 21st century is taking place: Thousands of political leaders are deciding when to reopen their economies as the COVID-19 threat fades. To balance the difficult trade-offs in ending a lockdown, they must challenge old ways of thinking and invent new approaches.

But they are not alone. In their isolation at home, families are shedding habits and learning to solve problems posed by the pandemic. With classrooms closed, schools are testing their assumptions about how students learn.

Retailers are trying new ways to keep customers. With their workers returning soon, manufacturers are experimenting with new workplace techniques and supply chains for a post-pandemic world. In the rush to invent a vaccine, thousands of researchers are breaking new ground in scientific thinking.

The coronavirus may have weakened much of society. But the great weakening has stirred a great awakening. People are digging deeper for inspiration and breaking mental chains. Trends like digitization and online learning have been fast-forwarded.

Peter Coleman, a Columbia University professor who studies the impact of societal shocks, writes that people coming out of a major crisis “are more open and their thinking is more flexible than it was before.” They listen to alternative ideas and discard old realities. Over many shocks, they can attain an irreversible innovation in thought.

They also see the utility of unity where once they reveled in playing up differences with others.

“The extraordinary shock to our system that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing has the potential to break America out of the 50-plus year pattern of escalating political and cultural polarization we have been trapped in, and help us to change course toward greater national solidarity and functionality,” Dr. Coleman writes. “The time for change is clearly ripening.”

Even in the midst of the crisis, it is time to celebrate the shift toward creativity and unity.

One example is “The Call to Unite,” a 24-hour global streamathon that starts May 1 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. The event has pulled together dozens of global leaders and celebrities to reflect on the long-term meaning of the crisis. The goal: “to help you turn the pain of this moment into possibility for tomorrow ... and inspire you to pay it forward.”

Much of daily life – shopping, working, worshipping, governing – has been turned inside out but also has been given an overdue review. The exercise in fresh thinking, while unwelcome at first, could be here to last. Parts of life may eventually return to the prior normal. The ability to envision a new life may not.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

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.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.