The last 12 months have been tough. For many of us, success has been keeping our heads above water and juggling the work/home/school demands.
But, if you've managed to steady the ship and weather the storm, is there potential to use this time to take steps forward?
In uncertain times it might seem strange to think about innovating, but prioritising innovation now could help to unlock post-crisis growth.
Crisis as a catalyst for innovation
The Covid-19 pandemic has itself shown how times of extreme crisis produce innovation on a global scale. The response of the scientific community, the NHS and public health has been incredible, producing life-saving innovations and rapid responses that have allowed society to continue to function.
What can we learn from these crisis innovations?
Developing life-saving innovations in a global pandemic takes a very specific set of circumstances but we can apply some of the approaches to our business practices.
This article from The University of Chicago highlights some really interesting tools to take inspiration from:
1. Challenge assumptions
Most companies, brands and organisations hold unchallenged assumptions about their products, services, customers and competitors. These orthodoxies start as truths but aren't challenged as things change. Innovation can better emerge if you identify and challenge these assumptions.
In the face of PPE shortages different sectors adapted productions lines to produce equipment and several start-ups are close to commercialising reusable-mask technology.
Times of crisis free the entrepreneurially minded to question what their business does and the accepted conventions of current technologies. Try taking a step back to ask what could be limiting the growth opportunities for your business.
2. Force constraints
Forced constraints have produced transformative ideas the pandemic - healthcare providers have moved some consultations online, restaurants have shifted their business to nationwide finish at home meal-kits, innovations that would not have been implemented in normal times without forced constraints.
Companies often rely on established practices and methods to avoid risk. When you combine this with our natural neurological reliance on historical patterns and associations it makes it hard to envision new ways of doing things.
When it comes to your business, try to step outside the normal and envision unlikely scenarios. Thinking about how you might operate with different budgets, overheads, regulations, or even products might help you innovate ideas you wouldn't normally consider.
3. Work outside your business
The response to Covid-19 has been a victory for collaboration. Beer producers partnered with healthcare providers to deliver much-needed hand gel, education and industry have together produced a vaccine in record time and hotel chains have turned into makeshift recovery wards.
Whether it's crowdsourcing new ideas, working with cross-sector partners or collaborating with unexpected industries, looking outside your organisation can bring fresh ideas, perspectives and breed innovation.
4. Act now, perfect later
When a global pandemic hits, it's amazing to see how quickly even disparate services can mobilise. Processes that would take years of red tape and discussions were implemented in days.
Life and death necessity was the unique driver for this and it's hard to replicate these demands in every-day business, but there are practices we can implement to speed up innovation. We can relax processes and approvals – instead introducing sprint-led processes for some projects. We can give people time and incentives to collaborate, and we can be willing to get solutions out there that aren't perfect.
Is it time to seize the moment?
So, we've looked at how we can take inspiration from Covid-19 innovations, but while we're still in a period of uncertainty is this the right time for creative and tech businesses to innovate?
The opportunities are threefold:
Innovate your business
As businesses grow, they naturally fall into patterns and structures. Some create efficiencies, while over time others breed predictability and inefficiency. Has a shift in your normal ways of working and your increased agility over the last 12 months opened up other ways you could innovate in the longer-term? If you're in a position of stability now could be a good time to address your wider processes and see if there are opportunities to experiment and test new ways of thinking.
Innovate your offer
A crisis often highlights the strengths and vulnerabilities in a business. It can put a spotlight on what services are at the core of your success and which parts of your offer are really fulfilling your purpose. There has undoubtedly been an acceleration of the already rapid shift towards digital. Are you and your team in the best possible position to capitalise? Are there new products, new platforms, new technologies that can set you apart?
Help your clients to innovate
Even if your core business hasn't dramatically changed, the opportunities for your customers may have. You can help them identify potential to innovate and help them realise it. A crisis often forces organisations to evolve and adapt, if your services can help your clients either through direct services or collaborative innovation, you'll be in a strong position to seize opportunities as we emerge from the crisis.
The world is changing and businesses that adapt and innovate will be best placed to navigate the uncertainty ahead. If you’re considering innovation for your business, kick start the conversation with one of Gather’s Growth Consultants at a free One-to-one Advice Session.