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Innovation in Isolation

Edward Pollock
Edward Pollock, Startup Coordinator for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at RGU, gives his top tips for being innovative in isolation.

In the past months, you’ve probably had to come up with more innovate and creative ideas than you have in the whole past year. Life in lockdown has meant massive changes to how we are used to doing things - coming up with interactive ways of running classes online, to learning new technology to collaborate with colleagues working from home, to running virtual quiz socials instead of meeting up with friends. We’ve all had to adjust - and that brings opportunities for innovation which might just create a permanent shift in our behaviour.

In the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, we’ve also had to adjust and come up with new ideas to keep our activities running and offer as much support as we can. Our top tips for staying innovative in isolation would be:

Keep the momentum and stay passionate

When times are difficult and you are faced with making big changes, it’s hard to resist the urge to just give up. However, try and keep your focus and energy because there is always a way to pursue. We often talk to our startup teams about pivoting (embrace your Ross from Friends) - shifting your work to meet what is needed and finding the right solution. That’s what we’ve had to do with our programmes such as our Startup Accelerator. With everyone in lockdown we had to decide - do we delay the programme or carry on?

Our team were passionate about what we were doing and so were our startups, so we choose to keep the momentum of the programme and find new ways to support them. We were already using Microsoft Teams for all of our updates and files - we shifted to video call workshops, increased the number of one-to-one mentor sessions and moved to video pitch sessions. Despite the lockdown our startups have prepared pitches, found new co-founders, met with mentors, collaborated with app developers and continued to advance their businesses.

Focus on your goal and embrace the opportunity to innovate

How often do we question why we do things the way we do? If you have to rethink a project - start by focusing on the core goals you have to achieve, and be open to as many ways you can achieve them as possible. You might find a new format which brings even more benefits than the original plan. For the final of our Startup Accelerator this was originally a large physical event with over 250 people in attendance - with that not possible we had to come up with something new.

We’re now hosting Startup Sunday Live on Sunday 31st May with pitching and competitions - imagine Dragons Den meets the X Factor Final. We’ve never done an event like that before - but we focused on the core goal - providing exposure to the startups, celebrating their success and engaging our stakeholders. A new digital format opens the event to an even wider audience - even if it does mean we have to learn new skills in live streaming and video editing.

Make the most of what you already have and make time to learn

Innovation doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. Reflect on the resources, skills and materials you have around you and repurpose them to achieve your goal. We’ve seen great examples from the RGU community already from virtual social events, to digital dissertation hand-in selfies at home instead of on-campus. Try not to be put off or shut down possibilities without considering how you can adjust what you’ve already got. Where you don’t know the answer, then this is the time to learn and spark those innovative ideas.

It will be the innovators and problem solvers who will thrive in a world shaped by COVID-19 and our ambition is to create those innovators in our community and through our programmes. We might be in isolation, but every challenge is waiting for a solution - could you come up with that solution?

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