By Melissa Stone

Is our current pandemic environment accelerating or hindering innovation? Companies have a lot to lose if they do nothing. When a catastrophe hits, we’ve historically seen people come together to unite around a common purpose and reinvent (ie, The Great Depression led to the New Deal).

In these uncertain times, I admire the entrepreneurs who identify what’s broken, develop a new idea to help others, and share creative solutions. They’re not waiting for the government, or anyone else, to create something new. Instead, they’re striving to help their community, even while quarantined at home.

History has demonstrated that both golden age pioneers and modern day leaders define innovation as product creation: Thomas Edison (light bulb), Alexander Graham Bell (phone), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Elon Musk (Tesla).  If you think you need a fancy corporate office to get started, think again. Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) started their multi-billion-dollar companies from their garages.

In today’s challenging time, I believe there will ultimately be a resurgence of inventions and technological progress to help improve our lives and move society forward. 

We know that all businesses have been shaken to the core by the “Coronavirus economy” and that it’s been especially challenging for small businesses. According to a Goldman Sachs survey, 51% claim that they can only operate for the next 3 months, and 67% are uncertain how to apply for emergency funding.

During a time when the world faces unprecedented challenges, I’m inspired by the stories of small business owners, who are working tirelessly to push forward entrepreneurial, selfless ideas at a time when many are struggling.

According to CNBC, new ideas for the greater good of the community include using artificial intelligence for symptom-tracking solutions, chatbots for diagnoses, and people-tracking with nearby infection notification. Others are developing ideas to improve homeschooling, such as video chat classes taught by independent teachers versus relying on remote-learning through Zoom. Entrepreneurs are taking their fate into their own hands, not waiting for others to create the technology for them. (“There’s got to be a better way.”)

Circling back to our original question: is our current pandemic environment accelerating or hindering innovation? In a few years, I hope that we can all look back at this challenging time and unanimously say that history repeated itself: innovators took the lead to help others.