COVID-19 and Personal Innovation

Wednesday May 27,2020 | Social Innovation



By Christy Davis

From environmental issues to poverty, healthcare and education, it’s clear that the world needs help. This is why at Lien Centre for Social Innovation, we’re always on a mission to drive social consciousness and enable partnership-driven innovation. Effecting positive change in the lives of people—that’s our passion and motivating force.


But before we can influence others, positive change must first take place at the individual level. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Indeed, social innovation can only happen when we first practise “personal innovation”.

So what is personal innovation? There are many ways one can interpret this. To me, it involves taking a step back and doing some “psychological decluttering”. Personal innovation is opening up some headspace and emotional energy for the everyday tasks and thinking. Here, I’d like to share my evolving approach to personal innovation, and what the outcomes have been so far.


Going to Your Happy Mental State, Guilt-Free

Giving ourselves a mental break may sound simple, but it can be a difficult thing to do when surrounded by to-do lists that should have been completed the day before. Indulging in me-time where you essentially do some no-mental-energy-required fun is almost a guilty pleasure these days, when it really shouldn’t be. For example, I enjoy watching entertaining content like this Dog wants a Kitty video. I also found this video recently about how Chinese folk dancers in the US continue to practise during this quarantine period. It gave me some insight into their lives but also taught me a thing or two about Chinese folk dance—not something I’d normally do research on.

My new favourite though, is watching Some Good News with John Krasinski, because right now, I think we all need a healthy dose of good news. Then there’s thoughtful compositions like this poem by Aaron Maniam that makes one stop to ponder.



Screengrab of Some Good News with John Krasinski YouTube channel.


A few more clicks on the Internet led me down a rabbit hole, where I learned everything there is to know and more, about rainbows! And just when I thought my life was interesting enough, my molecular biologist friend Adeline introduced me to Animal Restaurant. I figured if a scientist with a PhD referred to it as a “strangely soothing business simulation game”, then there must be something to it. So you see, just by allowing myself to keep an open mind and have fun without overthinking, I learned so much in the process.


Moving Away from the Screen

As much as I enjoy indulging in hours of cat videos, I need to separate myself from the computer—or anything with a screen—given the long hours I already put in at work. Also having realised that the act of trying new things has a decluttering effect on my mind, I’ve embarked on quite a number of firsts this season, from kickboxing and cooking Indian food, to even picking up the ukulele!


The Joy of Decluttering

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been nothing short of magical for me. Following Kondo’s advice, I’ve decided to keep my desk space clean over these past weeks. I do this by making a conscious effort to clear the stack of papers and files that seem to multiply themselves every few days. As a result, I feel my brain getting decluttered at the same time.




Taking Long Walks

Stephen Cherry once wrote, “Busyness … is not fuelled by purpose but by anxiety.” After closing my laptop at the end of every workday, I like to catch a breath of fresh air to clear my mind by going for a long walk. I’m grateful to be living in a country that has breathtaking views of the sunset—something that never gets old for me.





Indeed, challenges present the perfect opportunity for creativity and for finding ways to do things better. For me, the bright side of COVID-19 has been the chance to do more psychological decluttering. But more than that, it is a reminder that we cannot control our environment. The only thing we can control is our mindset. What we may have thought of as “COVID-19 survival skills” at the beginning of this pandemic may be different now.  A recent article I read had a message that really struck me. It said, “Your only goal is to arrive.” In other words, because our reality has changed, we need to evolve in the way we define success.   




At the end of the day, we all hope to live and work through a crisis with a clear head, calm heart and courageous, humour-filled spirit. I personally wish to come out of this season with bigger and better ideas.

In that spirit, personal innovation may simply mean having the presence of mind to manage our own expectations and being kind to ourselves. In so doing, we may just emerge from this pandemic in one piece, better and stronger.


Image of sunset courtesy of the author; all other images via rawpixel.



Christy Davis is the Executive Director of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation.