C7: Dr. Anne Stenros: What happens if it goes on and on?


We asked Dr Anne Stenros, former Design Officer of the City of Helsinki seven questions regarding the Corona crisis (“C7”):

What surprises you in the crisis? 

Frankly, I think it is quite extraordinary how fast people adapted to the New Normal of crisis and the everyday restrictions, for example social distancing and staying at home. On the other hand, it is also scary, how fast we got used to the loss of freedom although it is one of the human rights. 

The other thing that surprises me is how fast we also adapted to the remote work and all the new digital tools that we are now using every day. The digital transformation happened overnight, throughout the society, among young and old. 

What helps you not to go crazy in the lockdown? 

The trust on the governmental leadership and the scientists. If the information we get is truthful and consistent and the leaders show humility and integrity, it is all right. They do not have to know everything since we are facing a completely new situation – a black swan – but if they constantly update the information and change the behaviour patterns accordingly, it is reassuring. 

On a personal level, I read and write – it is a way to ventilate the stress and reflect how I feel. I write both professional texts and micro poems (for myself). They give hope for me. Every act of creativity helps us to cope with the negative feelings caused by the crisis. 

The Artist David Hockney said some time ago in The Guardian interview: “We need art, and I do think it can relieve stress,” he said. “What is stress? It’s worrying about something in the future. Art is now.” 

There are many; just now I am watching The Bureau, a French political thriller television series that is focusing on psychological distancing rather than the social one. 

What scares you? 

That the pandemic will last longer than we can tolerate the loneliness and being isolated. What happens if it goes on and on…? 

What gives you hope?

All small acts of kindness: a nod, a smile, a phone call. All things that remind me of caring and empathy. In a bigger scale: all acts of focusing on imaging and thinking about the future create hope. The ancient Greek word for hope is elpis which simply means anticipating the future. In Greek mythology, Elpis is the personification and spirit of hope. Therefore, focusing on future is a positive way forward. 

The world 2021 

Futurist Gerd Leonhard has said that this is the Great Transformation. I fully agree: the post-corona future will be a result of a systemic change that can be seen in everything and everywhere. The pandemic will change our way of living, working, travelling, collaborating, doing business, and eventually, it will have an impact on the geopolitical power scene – how, that will be seen. 

What have you personally learned from this crisis? 

I just listened to a podcast of Professor Judith Glück, who is a leading scholar on evidence-based wisdom research. Based on her theory, wise people are learning from challenges through the MORE model, which consists of the five principles of wisdom: mastering uncertainty, openness to different perspectives, reflecting our behaviour and empathy by regulating our emotions. Hopefully, this challenge is teaching each and all of us how to become wiser. 


Dr. Anne Stenros is a thought leader on strategic design, creative leadership and strategic foresight. She graduated as Master of Architecture from the Univ. of Oulu and the Univ. of California, Berkeley. She has the doctorate in technology in architectural theory. She has acted as a Managing Director of Design Forum Finland and the Executive Director of Hong Kong Design Centre. In 2005-2015, she was the Design Director at KONE Corporation, a world leading elevator and escalator company. In 2016-2018 she was appointed the first chief design officer CDO of the city of Helsinki. Currently, she is founder and CEO at Creative Catalyst. She has been rewarded with the Top Chief Design Officer (2018) by WIDC and CIDA and she is nominated as the Member of the World Design Capital WDC 2022 Selection Committee by World Design Organization WDO.