Flight, fight or freeze? How a more mindful approach to combat the covid-19 pandemic turned to creativity, compassion and structural clarity.

Writer: Maria Talvinko, doctoral researcher

“When you get used to the uncertainty and don’t let it stress you out too much, the current situation is actually quite a nice opportunity to observe what is happening.” – A craft beer brewery

The unexpected Covid pandemic hit us early spring of 2020, causing not only chaos and uncertainty in our personal lives, but also posed a challenge for different types of businesses and organisations to respond. While some ventures swiftly pressed the gas pedal with various outward responses such as creating new sales channels or products, some appeared paralysed or even seemed to drop off the radar. This stirred our research group’s curiosity so we set out to find out what was happening within these organisations beyond external output.

Through in-depth interviews with 33 ventures, we saw a rich array of self-work taking place within. It ranged from developing the organizations’ ways of doing, quests for overall purpose, and learning to cope with the new uncertain landscape. The entrepreneurs and their teams had acquired important insights through heightened awareness of their environment and the present moment, utilized new perspectives, slowed down or even paused their current endeavours to self-reflect – perhaps initially without any concrete action seen from the outside. 

These mindful responses also had an impact on businesses’ ways of working. Taking time to identify strengths and weaknesses and reviewing current strategies caused changes to operations and direction, shifted priorities and increased overall structural clarity. Slowing down gave permission to entrepreneurs battling an overall pace too fast to pause and lower stress levels. Choosing a positive perspective and optimistic attitude helped to adopt a compassionate attitude towards oneself and others, as well as shifted the point of view to the future, often spurring creativity and new ideas.

“In the beginning, we were guessing and estimating how long this situation would go on. However, soon it became clear that the only thing to be done was to focus on the now and take the most promising decisions based on the information gained from the present.” – A Health Snack Producer 

While the media and even the academic world often highlight fast, reactive outputs and bold openings through appreciation of the ‘entrepreneurial hustle’, it is important to also recognize the value in self-reflection, slowing down and gaining a deeper understanding of the business environment. This more mindful approach should be a way to not just combat crises, but to shift our everyday way of doing in the post-pandemic world.

In Researcher Blogs KAUTE’s grant recipients tell about their research and viewpoints in their own words.

Maria Talvinko is a doctoral researcher at Aalto Design Factory focusing on food and beverage entrepreneurs and their innovation activities ranging from individual organizations to industry wide level. She’s especially curious about how different founder identities, goals and motivations affect development activities, collaboration tendencies and ways of venturing.