We need innovation now more than ever
BY ERIC HOLDENER
We live in extraordinary times and organizations hadn’t planned for it. There are no business books nor MBA programs that have taught us how to respond when the entire economy is in lockdown because of a global pandemic.
A few years ago, I was involved in managing the crisis of a cyber-attack in the last organization I was working with. We had clear protocols and processes in place to ensure business continuity. This time it’s different. There are no models that could have anticipated the scale of this planetary crisis.
During times like this, we often see organizations cut back on their innovation budget, even close entire departments, as a reaction to dealing with immediate short-term problems. Too often, this reaction comes from a misperception of the role of innovation. Most think it’s needed when all things are going well and when we have the luxury to think about the future.
"But cutting back on innovation is a big mistake. More than ever, teams responsible for innovation should serve as the voice of creative options to help executives solve immediate problems."
These teams can find new ways of managing operations, deploying new tactics, and strategies to mitigate the impact of the crisis and new models to jumpstart the activities of the organization post-pandemic.
How will consumers re-engage with brands and their products and services in a period of social distancing that will most likely last for months? Where will their values shift in their everyday lives? How do we propose new and sustainable solutions that are going to be relevant today and for the world of tomorrow?
How will we continue to create and manufacture while going through phases of temporary confinement? How do we rethink supply chain and production to be more agile and to enable dynamic switching from one model to the next depending on the situation?
How do we turn remote work as a strategic advantage? How do we further digitize our processes to enable business continuity under extreme conditions such as now?
These are a few questions that innovation teams can address. However, the mindset and process applied by creative teams are as important as the questions and solutions they can come up with. Innovation brings a culture of prototyping and a proven experience in experimentation through design sprints, so organizations can quickly test and validate ideas.
Let’s not cut back on innovation. We live in an unprecedented time in history where we will need to surround ourselves with people who can help us come up with new models to navigate the unknown because old models simply don’t work anymore.
The question to ask ourselves now is: How do we redirect the effort of our innovation team to address and execute on the immediate challenges that we are currently facing?