During a crisis, such as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, innovation is a necessity. Research and development surged in healthcare, education, logistics, and other industries severely impacted by the coronavirus. While these industries had the greatest need for immediate innovation, very few businesses will escape unscathed from COVID-19.
Just like any crisis, from natural disasters to technology failures, the pandemic is impacting business decisions in dozens of industries. While leadership’s first instinct may be to maintain operations as-is or even cut costs, accelerating innovation is essential. Prioritizing research and development, as well as creative problem solving, allows organizations to adapt to new problems, timelines, priorities, and expectations. Addressing these shifts in the way we live, work, and play now can position your business for a competitive advantage post-COVID.
1. New Problems
Crises bring new challenges to light. However, these challenges are also opportunities. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This is obvious in industries directly impacted by COVID-19, including healthcare, education, and tourism. New problems are not limited to these industries. Manufacturers are facing reduced workforces and material shortages. Small businesses are adapting to remote work and limited foot traffic. These challenges become opportunities with a focus on innovation.
2. New Timelines
When crises arrive, both long- and short-term business plans are affected. Whether you’re facing an early product launch, a delayed hiring, or another pandemic-impacted timeline, innovation is crucial. These roadblocks may even be helpful. “Individuals, teams, and organizations alike benefit from a healthy dose of constraints. It is only when the constraints become too high that they stifle creativity and innovation.”
3. New Priorities
The priorities of both businesses and their customers are shifting, pushed toward change by the current health crisis. Innovation can help businesses reduce costs while pivoting their products, services, or practices to better serve customers’ fluctuating needs.
COVID-19 is forcing organizations to reimagine their “supply chains, production processes, project workflows, etc.” At the same time, frugal innovation—long practiced in “environments with poor infrastructures”—is becoming more important as businesses worldwide face raw material shortages, supply chain disruptions, and shifting consumer behavior.
4. New Expectations
The current crisis forced companies, employees, clients, and consumers to refocus their priorities. This creates new expectations for the people and organizations they choose to do business with. Consumers now expect to see their doctor virtually, work from home, and have food delivered to their door contact-free. They’re also holding the businesses they support accountable for sustainability, social justice, mental health, and other causes illuminated by the events of 2020. Entities able to meet these new expectations with innovative products, services, partnerships, and initiatives will be poised to capitalize on them.