Dealing with crisis? That’s what startups do (all the time).

Written by Petr Adamek, CEO of Canberra Innovation Network.


“Go hard or go home” motivates those who want to get ahead and achieve something. It praises focus and hard, almost inhuman effort. But, how does this saying stand in the time of the current crisis? In a time when we may just need to do the opposite.

When in pandemic, ‘go home’ first and do not take it as a punishment or some kind of negative outcome. It is simply our contribution to public health and safety. It is our collective contribution to help slow down the speed of the virus spread and help our hospitals cope with the surge in demand from those in need.

As far as ‘go hard’ is concerned, we believe that we need to instead learn to become more clever, connected and creative. We need to be ‘soft’ as we make decisions that impact staff and small business suppliers, and as we care about each other, recognising the huge threat to our mental health and general well-being. As we work remotely, as digital natives, we need to develop a range of new ‘soft’ skills. Our emotional intelligence is tested at the next level when we are not in the same room as others. How do we sense tensions or excitement? How do we motivate each other and improve team morale? How do we socialise, give and take feedback, how do we manage emotionally?

The good news is that these turbulent times also bring very new opportunities. As we go, we will be learning rapidly about the seismic shifts happening around us in real time. Things will keep changing and evolving, customers may change and their problems will definitely change. Entire industries will change and we will need to respond and adapt as we go.

This tension between vision, changing environment and the need to respond quickly and efficiently is what innovation and entrepreneurship is all about. And in fact, we already have a huge body of knowledge and experience with how to navigate and respond in a rapidly changing environment. Our startups do it all the time!

  • Not enough cash? Ask any founder what it feels like to manage through the bootstrapping stage and operate as a lean startup.
  • Don’t have  an office or working across multiple locations? This is a daily reality for many startups that prioritise how to spend every single dollar.
  • Pivoting and adapting to ever changing customer demands? How else can a startup land their first real contract?
  • Technology breaks? Yes it does, all the time. Once you accept that it will, you will design, test and deploy differently.

Crisis tests you and you have an opportunity to emerge more resilient as a team or an organisation. And Canberra startups are already responding to the crisis. As medical researchers, governments and citizens around the world are fighting to contain COVID-19, local Canberra startup Health Horizon has published a live channel tracking upcoming vaccines, diagnostics and other innovations that assist in bringing an end to the pandemic.

At the Canberra Innovation Network we care about how we as an economy and society become more clever, connected and creative. We believe this can be achieved through entrepreneurship at all levels – in the garages and bedrooms where entrepreneurs often start, in the research labs, inside businesses and corporations where intrapreneurs are keen to explore new opportunities. The current evolving crisis caused by COVID-19 creates a lot of pressure but also opportunities for all of us to be more entrepreneurial, more responsive and agile (perhaps less strategic but definitely more practical). We encourage all of you to think about what you can do.

We will be taking our collaborative innovation and lean innovation workshops and courses online, and our growing network of experts and mentors will be working remotely to help our client innovators navigate through this crisis to prepare and capture these new opportunities.


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