“Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty.”
- Thomas S. Monson
What do you think of when you hear the word disaster? It’s not uncommon to picture earthquakes, floods or disease spreading around the world. COVID-19 is causing our world to change in some big ways and to many, it may seem like a disaster. What you may never have considered is that disasters can also be extremely beneficial, it just isn’t always so obvious as the destruction or pain which is often the most visual and striking.
During this time of uncertainty, it can be important to remember that some of the world’s most important leaps in innovation and discovery were marked by times of disaster and difficulty. While they can be damaging and full of heartbreak, they also have the ability to push human beings to maximize their potential and intelligence. Here are just a few examples of the innovation and creativity that has been unleashed in connection with disasters.
1. Earthquakes, Fires, and Human Beings at Their Best
In her book, A Paradise Built in Hell Rebecca Solnit recounts the history of the great San Fransico earthquake but from a new perspective. In was one of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history and many were displaced and lost nearly everything they had as a result. Somewhat unexpectedly, this experience became a cherished time of life for many of the citizens who lived through the calamity.
Displaced with nowhere to call home and surrounded by only strangers, one might most likely expect prolonged suffering and only misery, but this was not the case. Many saw it as an opportunity to help others and make the best of the poor situation. As a result, a new kind of community was created, one where people became increasingly generous and full of new values. The earthquake destroyed not only buildings but the previous social structure and status and led to a new kind of living in which people cared more about each other than their possessions. A new way to live was revealed and has been the source of some powerful studies and insightful literature.
2. Hurricane Harvey and Innovation
As is often the way, disasters teach us how we can be better prepared for the next time it happens. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey spread across the state with sensors to determine the flow of water as it receded back into the ocean. This information along with other hurricane-prone places has led to improved models about flooding. In the future, the government and other organizations will know which areas are most at risk leading to better evacuation efforts and damage predictions and assessments.
In addition, some of the citizens of Houston quickly realized that 911 would be insufficient to handle the number of calls and help requested. Three men, Matthew Marchetti, Nate Larson, and Oliver Carter didn’t wait around for someone else to handle this problem, they took matters into their own hands. They put together a site called Houston Harvey Rescue which compiled emergency service data to help create a map and organize volunteers for victims to easily find help. As a result, the site led over 7,500 rescues. There are many people alive and recovering today because of a few people’s ingenuity and initiative.
3. A Broken Piano
This last example comes as a different kind of disaster. Keith Jarrett, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, once arrived to perform for a large audience only to discover that the piano available was severely out of tune. Embarrassed and somewhat mocked, the musician initially refused to play, but after the pleading of the young event coordinator, he changed his mind. Using his extensive knowledge of music and unmatched creativity, Keith Jarrett put on a concert that has gone down in history and led to one of the highest-selling jazz albums of all time.
Keith could easily have seen the situation as a lost cause and left the scene, but choosing to stay produced something great. Few of us are accomplished musicians but we all have the potential to turn bad circumstances into something amazing if we look for the opportunity.
There is Beauty in the Storm
What do you see in this picture of outer space? It’s striking colors and incredible detail are beyond description. Now ask yourself, what exactly is this a picture of? This is a nebula. A nebula is a giant cloud of dust and material left over after the supernova of a star. In other words, it’s a giant mess. A mess bigger than any that could be made on earth, and yet, it’s beautiful.
COVID-19 will pass and we will get through this challenging time, but remember this is also a time of learning and innovation. Whether it’s a disease or a broken piano, solutions are found when humans are tested. We have an abundance of resources and companies at our disposal to build and transform the way the world handles new challenges. Companies like Jupiter Design have teams of talented employees who help construct and produce the ideas of the future. Don’t focus so much on what we have lost but what we can gain.
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