Fewer opportunities for serendipity – chance encounters leading to unexpected ideas and relationships – may be one tragic outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic, says Dr David Cleevely, serial entrepreneur, co-founder of Cambridge Network and a leading business figure in the region for many years.
Serendipity may be a thing of the past, says Cleevely
"Serendipity is the thing that underpins my entire career, bumping into people by chance and having conversations with them," he told the Network's CEO John Gourd, in the latest of a series of business leader interviews. He said that kind of chance encounter could not happen in a prearranged Zoom call: "That is the issue that we need to crack."
In a wide-ranging conversation about the effects of the pandemic, he acknowledged that many businesses – for example in travel, retail, hospitality, cinema and theatres – would suffer. But alongside biotech companies involved in Covid-19 research projects, organisations with technology for telecoms and ICT were benefiting and there was still an appetite for investment. "A lot of people are looking for opportunities to back companies that will benefit – those will be things that generally play to new ways of working and different kinds of productivity," he said.
The main challenge as the lockdown began to ease and people started returning to work would be making people feel safe and secure, he said. "Individuals are really important and you need to look after them. That implies that a lot of office working will probably be a thing of the past.
"We need to be creative about the way in which we think about doing things. It's about flexibility and agility and the ability to recognise that you need to have very different ways of working in the future.
"It's not going to be easy," he added.
Cambridge Network is a membership organisation based in the vibrant high technology cluster of Cambridge, UK. We bring people together - from business and academia - to meet each other and share ideas, encouraging collaboration and partnership for shared success.