Will Isolation Kill Creativity and Innovation — Or Reinvigorate Us?

As the pandemic continues to isolate many, we have to wonder if this isolation will eat away at our creativity and innovation — the fuel that great marketers live off of. Or, will it reinvigorate us?

Happy Memorial Day 2020. To say the least, I salute our fallen soldiers and sailors. They matter greatly to us. This year, of course, we know of another “frontline” of warriors battling a grave threat. We’re also thinking of them — some of whom have succumbed. We mourn and are humbled by their sacrifice, too. Fighting and dying to protect us. Fighting and dying to preserve our freedoms.

Continued adherence to local public health mandates for social distancing and isolation is perhaps the best way we can honor these heroes. We cannot let down our home guard.

And yet, it’s the unofficial start of summer. And my mind and body are eager for familiar patterns this time of year — in a world that is anything but familiar. Much of what I love about late spring inevitably means 1) making plans to go places — and then going; 2) sharing experiences; and 3) taking “down time” to refresh and reinvigorate.

Every one of these activities feeds our creativity. Every one is a sum greater than its parts. True, like a good book, our immersion in virtual experiences can launch our minds and imaginations in new ways.

Graph Showing American Vacation Plans for 2020 with COVID impacts
Credit: eMarketer, April 2020

Yet, it’s also true that hand-to-hand exchanges, encountering new faces and places, and human contact rev up the creativity meter that much more.

I’m fortunate to be a knowledge worker. I have a job. I am able to work remotely with initiative — and get assignments accomplished, and I’m absolutely thankful to have my life and livelihood. But as the cold weather finally has faded away, we need to start our summer.

A Creativity Pact — Isolation That Inspires

So let’s make a pact. This will be our most creative summer ever, because:

We’re going to challenge ourselves to find the silver lining — sun, rain or in-between. They’re plenty of them: “rediscovering” our family relationships and our immediate neighbors, and appreciating them for their quirks and gifts.

I know this sounds strange, but I’ve spent more time studying my family … and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had on top of each other. It’s as though my office mates — who I sometimes think of as family — just became Zoom mates, and my “real” family recaptured the role they were always meant to have. I’ve been re-grounded in family values.

We’re going to go places. They just likely will be near and nearer. Some believe globalism just died, and that supply chains, politics, networks and communities have been forced into isolationism. Some are even celebrating this fact. Tsk, tsk.

I work in the world of data, and silos are NEVER a good thing. So we must commit ourselves to “Think Global, Act Local” — and let the innovations flow. Balkanizations never produced anything worth emulating. So protect that down time, and use it locally.

Find five area points of interest — a state or national park, a bike or hiking trail, a new neighborhood, a vista, an outdoor venue and go there — anywhere that gives you time to breathe, think and share safe distances to both people and nature watch. Observations produce revelations.

We’re going to find new ways to “share” that stimulates the brain. What might you do on those Google Hangouts to provoke the unexpected? Wear a funny hat. Display an aspirational background. Show some personality. Provoke.

I’m about to engage a summer intern, virtually, for the next 10 weeks. And, with my colleagues, it’s going to take a collective effort to make this new normal one where “remote” learning will be anything but boring. So on each call, there will be at least one external experience — non-work — to share. To exchange an idea is a gift — and we need to be in giving mood.

I’m ready to be invigorated. Aren’t you? This pandemic offers us new opportunities to take our familiar summer themes in whole new directions. Let’s discover them — and be very grateful for our ability to make better this unprecedented time.