Innovation in time of crisis

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation is becoming key to survival for many public and private institutions. This urge to innovate is driven mostly by measures such as social distancing, quarantines, lock-downs, and border closures imposed by governments around the world to slowdown the further spread of COVID-19.

These measures have been devastating for many businesses and made “doing business as usual” a thing of the past. Many companies are coping, among other things, with:

  • Cash flow shortage
  • Decreasing Revenue
  • Solvency problems
  • Work from home challenges
  • Social distancing at work
  • Changing customers’ needs and behavior
  • Decreasing buying power of customers
  • Distribution channel and supply chain challenges
  • Border closure impeding business travels
  • Regulatory restrictions to operate as usual
  • Limitation of manual procedures and lack of digitization

The less promising news is that that Corona virus is here to stay for a while. As some of the challenges will resolve in the short-term as government measures are released others will remain for a longer term.  The good news is that creativity tends to blossom amid chaos. We have seen both public and private organizations innovate rapidly in the last couple of months during the lock-down, proving that it is possible to innovate if we want to, and customers are willing to accept innovations that add value to them.

While innovations are essential at this time, innovation can be risky and costly. Moreover, history teaches us that many innovations fail. So, it is important to carefully assess innovation initiatives and implement innovations that add value to your company and your clients especially in this time. It is important to ask the right questions in this process. We will share our recommendation with you below. First, however, let’s define innovation. Innovation is the creation, development and implementation of a new products, processes, services, or business models with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness, or competitive advantage.

You can consider the following aspects to generate innovative ideas and manage the innovative process effectively.

Reconnect with the purpose of your company

Ask yourself why your company exists beyond the need to make money. What is the greater good that you want to achieve for others with your company? Your company’s purpose is not likely to change because of the crisis. Your purpose is the core reason why you are in the business, and it can serve as your compass during difficult times. By reconnecting with your purpose, you can find new and innovative ways to fulfill it. In other word new and innovative ways to serve and add value to your clients

Understand your customer needs

Your customers’ needs and priorities might have shifted due to the crisis. Ask your customers what their needs are. Ask them what their pains are. Ask them how you can alleviate those pains and satisfy those needs. Ask yourself whether serving these customers is aligned with your purpose? As you listen actively to your customers, you might discover new opportunities and innovative ideas might come up.

Capitalize on your strengths  

Ask yourself which talents you have, and what are the strengths of your company. How can you use your talents and strengths to satisfy the needs of your customers, ease their pains and add value to them? How can you use your talents and strengths to achieve your purpose?

Strive to add unique value to your customers

You can develop the most outstanding high-tech solution, yet it will be useless if it does not add value to anybody.  It is therefore important that your innovations add value to your customers. To prevent wasting money in the innovation process, it is important to test your concept early on.

Keep abreast of changes

There are changes happening on many fronts.  New technologies are being developed rapidly, competitors are changing their strategy and product offering, and governments are continuously adjusting their policies. Keep abreast of these changes to comply with new regulations, identify threats timely and seek new opportunities.

Look at things differently

Train yourself to see opportunities in every challenge. Have a growth mindset. Be willing to continuously learn and try new things. Consider failures as life lessons; learn the lesson and move on. There is no way that you can innovate without trying new things, as a matter of facts there is no innovation without action.

Challenge the status quo

Routine and change aversion are innovation killers. Ask yourself why you are doing, what you are doing in the way that you are doing it. Is what you are doing adding value to your company and your customers? Is it effective and efficient? Is your products/ services useful to another market segment as well? Can they satisfy other needs? How can you reduce production cost or cost of delivering the service? The answer to these questions can help you identify opportunities for improvement and/ or innovation.

Put a good team together

Put a dynamic team together, motivate team members to come up with new ideas and create a culture where new ideas are welcome. Listen actively to your team members and consider their new ideas with respect. In addition to internal team members, external partnerships might also add value to your company and your customers. In this respect, it is important to partner up with companies that share your core value, have a purpose that is aligned to your purpose, and can help you add value to your customers.

Create a culture of continuously Improvement and innovation

Implement the Plan- Do-Check-Act model to continuously improve and innovate

Last, let’s consider this as a journey. A journey that will make us stronger. Be grateful and celebrate even the small achievements along the way. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

Author: Rochelle A. Monte, MBA

Managing Director Excellency B.V.
June 9, 2020