Lessons from the Pandemic - Interviews 1-3

In June 2020 we launched the Human Ingenuity CompetitionThe purpose of the competition is to highlight individuals and organisations who have used Novel & Adaptive Thinking to pivot themselves or their organisations in response to the current global disruption. And not just pivot but evolve, change in new and inventive ways. We have received entries from across the world and are conducting interviews every week with our nominees. In this article we tease out some of the key themes that are emerging from these stories.


Massimo and Alexa – Kitchen Quarantine

This interview with Massimo and Alexa Bottura unpacked the Instagram hit Kitchen Quarantine through the perspective of novel thinking, adaptability and resilience. Armed only with an iPhone and with no idea what they would cook every night the Bottura family brought the world into their homes for over 70 episodes. These sessions gave so much inspiration to the people of Italy who experienced a severe and sudden lock down in March 2020. But thanks to social media the world (including country leaders such as Jacinda Arden, movie stars, the United Nations, Apple, Google…the list goes on) were also inspired to check in nightly to learn some new twists on favourite dishes (and how to clean their fridge with pesto!) This success story is the result of a fusion of father Massimo Bottura (a world-famous, highly celebrated chef patron known for the 3 star Michelin restaurant Osteria Francescana and charity Food for Soul among many other accomplishments) and daughter Alex. While the family provided the talent Alexa created, directed (and did the postproduction for) this social media hit.

Key Themes

Massimo is very clear about how they were positioned: standing on the shoulders of centuries of history but collaborating with the generations of today using contemporary tools.

  • Kitchen Quarantine was purpose-driven.
  • It used novel thinking. Every aspect of the live stream nightly production leveraged what the Bottura’s had on hand.
  • It relied on existing skills used in new ways.
  • It was a collaboration.
  • It happened quickly.

Self Service Salon

This interview with Maddy Gersh peeled back the layers on Self Service Salon: Maddy’s response to the pandemic: her own need to connect with people and the desire to support her salon clients in a positive way. If nothing else this pandemic has shone a light on the importance of selfcare and in the case of Maddy’s clients she used novel thinking, empathy, experimentation and persistence to develop information videos and colour kits for her clients. Her approach to prototyping and iterating is particularly insightful. And her use of SCAMPER (a method to use what exists as the genesis of something new) in her home salon is as interesting as it is funny.

Key Themes

Maddy has a lifetime of applying herself to problem-solving. 200 clients ask her about her holiday? No problem: here is a digital photo album. Clients have a knowledge gap about the hairdressing business? Create a series of explainer videos (like how to leave your hairdresser).

  • Self Service Salon was born out of need to connect.
  • It used novel thinking.
  • It relied on using existing skills in new ways.
  • It happened quickly.

Something essential in Maddy’s story is how innovation often requires the buy-in of our network. It is probably safe to say that not a single one of Maddy’s clients would have accepted going to a park bench to pick up colour kits or having their hair washed under a tap at the back of her house in normal circumstances.

Humanitarian Branding

This interview with the founders of Whatever Works Design, Catalina Lotero and Felipe Guarin, provides a case study of innovation that is purpose-driven and motivated by the need to bring solutions to those most vulnerable in our communities. Whilst studying abroad in Japan and far from home when the pandemic hit these two Colombian brand maestros went straight to work on applying their skills to the problem of reaching remote communities in the country they call home. Success in the MIT Covid-19 challenge propelled them to continue to evolve their concept for greater reach and effect. 

Key Themes

  • Humanitarian Branding was purpose-driven.
  • It relied on community networks and specialist collaborators.
  • The number one focus was the user.
  • It happened quickly.
  • It relied on using existing skills.
Tune in as we continue our interview series with case studies of novel approaches to a myriad of challenges including how to create a sense of community in the virtual world (Moscow: Stay the F@&k Home Bar, New York: Washable PPE, London: Virtual shows – fashion and art including virtual models).
Take a few minutes to tell us the story of an inspiring human or humans!: https://lnkd.in/gqxGwJv
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