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Necessity is the mother of all invention

A Letter from London
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Greetings to all my friends in Italy.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you virtually as we all try to make sense of these crazy times. I have watched, with concern, your beloved country going through some very painful experiences in recent weeks. For those who have lost loved ones or who have somebody in hospital my heart goes out to you. I do hope that you will all remain safe and healthy as we endure this crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented and I am sure many of us are fearful for the future. We human beings are resilient and as sure as night follows day this crisis will come to an end.

Franco tells me that the Lombardini22 family have reacted to the crisis with great energy, perseverance and a sense of responsibility. I congratulate you. With such strength of purpose, I have no doubt that you can overcome all the obstacles that you will face in getting back to normal.

But what will normal look like?  Will there be a new normal or just a return to the status quo? Maybe we can devote some time to think about life post crisis. What could the new normal look like?

I read last week's edition of OCIO with interest.  I agree with the ambition you set out that now is the time to start thinking about life beyond Coronavirus. Maurizio Crippa’s essay on rediscovering ourselves set the tone. We need to take this period of isolation to reflect deeply on our place in the world.

I agree with his hope that one possible outcome is the discovery of a new sense of responsibility where the focus is on community not on individual gain nor ego – a shift away from solipsism? This theme I see is also discussed by Mauro Magatti who got me thinking about the future of religion and of society.  As we are living in a type of suspended life now his article is a wake-up call to think holistically. Regardless of where you focus lies; be it in politics, science or religion. The period post the crisis will be a time for real choices.

As we all come to terms with living in a more isolationist fashion, we realise the importance as Maria Grazia Mattei puts it; - of our digital ecosystem. To make best use of this we also as she states need to evolve a digital culture. The technology is useless unless we as human beings learn to use it in a sensible manner.  

I believe Maria Grazia really describes the situation for the weeks ahead - “Nel frattempo, restiamo distanti ma uniti”.

Reflecting on these ideas in Ocio I asked myself how could we use this time of isolation to produce something good?  By necessity we are all forced to isolate and by doing so could we discover new or different ways of doing things? The nature of work and how we use both spaces and places will be affected by the crisis and a return to the old world is unlikely.  

Could we by using this "time to think and reflect" invent some fresh thinking about workplaces, work and the workforce?  

Our world is changing, work is changing therefore the built environment needs to adjust – it will be a time to re-set, re-assess and re-imagine.  But it will be much wider than just buildings. How can we use the experience of coping with Coronavirus to harness all the good things that came about as a consequence of the situation? It was amazing to see many thousands taking on local volunteering work in recent weeks.  Plus, I see some genuine care and concern for all the vulnerable members of our society.  There is also a renewed focus on what's really important – health care, respect for the elderly and support for the needy.  

Will we see post virus a move to a more caring society?

The enforced adoption of large-scale remote working will not go un-noticed after the virus has been beaten. Everyone both employer and employee will recognise that they have choice in how we work and live. For me work is no longer analogue it is digital. This means it is no longer a case of working in the office or at home. It is never going to be the same again as the crisis demonstrates that remote working at scale is feasible.  

But this is not just about home working it is much more and this new order will need to be defined explained and delivered.

As part of this new normal the role of community will be more important. Here again Italy showed its strength of character, human spirit and resilience. As the New York Times puts it by having ‘moments of joy’. By coming out on your balconies and from your Windows singing Azzurro, Nessun Dorma and your national anthem along with the applause for health workers; you showed the rest of us the power of community. We need to examine how this strength in adversity can be harnessed to build better levels of engagement when it comes to our world of the built environment.  We need to use this thinking to better understand that we all exist in a wider ecosystem rather than the pre-crisis self-centred approach of profit and shareholder value.

It would be criminal not to use this period of isolation as an opportunity to prepare for life post crisis. There will be no return to the old world as this crisis is a clear signal to all humanity that we have to do better.  

We need to reinvigorate after the storm that was Covid-19 – pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and start all over again. This will not be easy as the majority will favour a return to the familiar whilst harbouring secret thoughts that it is unsustainable.  Therefore, they will need some clear thought leadership not from one source but from a diverse number of sources.  We need to unite all of these into a ‘Coalition of the Convinced’ a wider ranging group of thinkers and commentators who can see a way forward and who care. I invite you to join in this process as we invent a fresh approach based on three concepts:

• A shift to a more caring society

• An adjustment in how and where we work based on choice

• A realisation that the Community is just as important as the Corporation

We need to reimagine new possibilities and learn from the experiences of surviving Covid-19. We need to reinvent our thinking and our business models to be more resilient, human centric and sustainable.

We can combine all our ideas and opinions and frame a new narrative – a workplace renaissance. One based on a fresh approach to how we as human beings live, how we work and how we can make the best use of our precious planet.

Chris Kane, Founder Six Ideas

April 6, 2020
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