No one saw it coming in December 2019. It is as if a tornado has swept in, and when we opened our eyes, everything had changed. A maelstrom that has placed us well beyond the bounds of the known. The human reaction to crisis is to want to seek comfort of the known. But the crisis precludes that option. There is no going back, at least for the foreseeable future.

And that is where the opportunity lies.

In December 2019, Brett Greene, founder of New Tech Northwest, was looking forward to another productive year of serving the tech community in the Pacific Northwest, with the 53,000-member community he built over the past seven years through hosting in-person events.

Then the crisis hit: COVID-19.

Greene saw the opportunity in the crisis. He focused on compassionately reaching out and seeing how he could help. He focused on people and the business ideas came.

As early as February, Greene began collaborating with partners to help lift organizations while serving New Tech members. As a result, New Tech PLUS, Humanity in Tech Neighborhood Block Party, and Funtime Lunch Break were born and launched April 14.

Identifying opportunities in the midst of a crisis is a mindset we can hone understanding these two keys:

  1. Opportunity is sparked through empathy. What customers are coping with today is very different than what they were dealing with only a few months ago. Adopting a mindset of empathy will illuminate potential opportunities to serve — business opportunities — that you could otherwise miss. Back in February, when New Tech Northwest was considering moving online, they were focused on not simply offering the same in-person programming that they offered prior to the crisis. Instead, they focused on striving to meet the changing needs of their customers.
  2. Opportunity is sparked through human connection. Innovation does not happen in social isolation. It happens when we engage with others, namely those we serve. Reaching out and collaborating with customers will spark new ideas. Some of these ideas may have seemed unreasonable even few months ago, and with the new context they suddenly seem doable. All this is made possible through human interaction, through engaging with a focus on service. The new offerings that New Tech Northwest is now providing resulted from conversations with current members. The pivot in their business model also came from listening to what partners and customers were seeking.

None of us were prepared for the unprecedented changes that have befallen the business community. We are all managing as best we can. To be clear, this is not about “making the most” of a distressing time. This is about watching for opportunities to serve your community, to better support your customers. By adopting a mindset of compassion we can find opportunity in the midst of a crisis.