As the COVID-19 Delta variant and vaccine inequity prolong the pandemic, many industries are again preparing for economic uncertainty. When business is unpredictable, budgets are trimmed. Resources allocated for innovation may be deemed unnecessary in these circumstances. Innovation-related expenditures deliver ROI in the long term—if they deliver ROI at all, which is not guaranteed. Yet, slowdowns are arguably when innovation is most important.
The good news: innovation does not (always) require money. Yes, a healthy R&D budget can be beneficial and is especially important in certain industries. However, strategic investments—even small ones—in a culture of innovation can yield lasting results. These budget-friendly strategies can help you identify inventive ideas that move your business forward.
Traditionally, money is the most important resource. While that’s probably still true, this is an opportunity to consider what other resources you can provide to encourage innovation. Can you offer extra time for ideation by automating daily tasks? How can you eliminate stress and ensure creative freedom? Employees could also use this time for structured or unstructured continued learning.
Remove Barriers to Entry
Large corporations are, understandably, siloed. Employees outside the R&D department may not feel empowered to contribute to innovation. However, when budgets are limited, finding creative ideas in unexpected places includes looking to employees working in manufacturing, sales, marketing, and numerous other roles.
Revisit Past Ideas
TRIZ methodology operates under the assumption that there is likely an existing solution to your problem. This belief is the basis of our IQ Ideas Plus™ platform and lends itself to periods of limited R&D resources.
Harvard Business Review highlights multiple examples of successful products that simply had to be pulled out of the archives in an article titled “Innovating on the Cheap.” Perhaps a product was previously positioned incorrectly or didn’t serve customers’ needs when it was invented. Whatever the reason, these past ideas never saw their full potential. Reviving them generally requires a much smaller investment than starting from scratch.
Budgets are often set based on the funds allocated and used previously. A slowdown (and impending budget cuts) may be a good time to reconsider how innovation is funded and if current practices are serving desired outcomes. Advancing technology, IP strategy, and many other factors may prove current budgeting tactics outdated when examined more closely.