Crisis prompts Cambridge business to show its true colours

John Gourd, CEO, Cambridge NetworkWilliam Blake famously quoted that while hindsight is a wonderful thing, foresight is better.

John Gourd

In the dim, distant past of the start of the Covid pandemic, few of us had the foresight to imagine that, almost two years later, we would still be experiencing disruption to our daily lives and businesses – notwithstanding the continued devastating impact to our families and communities.

In the absence of foresight, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the diaries I compiled during the first lockdown and, armed with the benefit of hindsight, review how our view of the world then has – or for that matter, hasn’t – changed.

The early days of the first lockdown were daunting. We were stepping into an unknown period with little forewarning or forearming. We all had to think on our feet and act quickly.

Four themes came through strongly in the early days of the first lockdown. These themes continue to resonate for us at the Network and continue to define how we work now – collaboration, communication, looking out for one another and acting as a conduit for ideas and information.

Taking each in turn:

  • Successful collaboration has always been a bedrock of the success of the Cambridge Cluster. We saw local companies opening their R&D pipelines and processes to other companies to address the global challenges of vaccine discovery and critical care treatment. The concept of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts carries on today as we see continued interest in companies, from both within and outside Cambridge, seeking technological partnerships to address the remaining Covid-related challenges and other world-scale issues, such as climate change and health.

  • From the very first online seminar we hosted, with Simon Hall (discussing the challenges and importance of communications during a crisis), we have witnessed the vital importance of open and honest dialogue. We have seen continued demand from our members for help in this area. The October fuel shortages brought home the consequences of poor communications.

  • Whether our members’ employees have been working from home, or required to attend a workplace, they have experienced levels of stress rarely experienced before the pandemic. Today, at the Network, we continue to hold a daily team catch-up – an opportunity to not just discuss the projects and tasks of the day but, equally importantly, a chance to check in on each other and provide the vital social interaction that we all need and previously took for granted.

  • Finally, we have listened to feedback from our members and continue to provide a single portal that allows them to access all the relevant information about the Cambridge Cluster; the events, the news, the details of other members’ services/products and vacancies.

It’s often said that people show their true colours in a crisis. I think that’s very true of the businesses in Cambridge and I’m heartened that the responses we all made to the initial challenges have stuck with us. They will provide us with a strong platform to continually grow as the world, hopefully, returns to something resembling normality.