by  Gary Gould

Innovation in a Crisis

Innovation is a critical company competence, especially in a crisis. Having the right Innovation Platform is vital to help fuel business survival and growth by harnessing the right ideas at the right time. Covid-19 presents a once-in-a generation opportunity to test whether your organization can do this and is truly innovative by design.

Back to the Future

Like many football fans (or ‘soccer’ to our friends in the USA) starved of live games, I’m watching repeats of old matches as part of a balanced pandemic TV diet. Last night, the BBC broadcast an old English FA Cup final—the World’s oldest football competition—from 1990 between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. The FA Cup is viewed by hundreds of millions around the Globe and even three decades ago, it was a significant and expensive advertising opportunity. Despite the excitement, I noticed that the advertising hoardings circling the pitch were littered with long gone companies.

innovation-in-a-crisis

It included a couple of IBM ‘clone’ computer companies such as Tulip Computers, Bonusprint which was then a cheap photo print service and Joes Bloggs clothing (the sartorial choice for trendy music lovers of the so-called ‘Madchester’ scene which was taking hold in the UK!). I estimated that more than half of the companies who advertised that sunny day in May 1990 are now either dead or doing something else that is a far cry from their heady days of enjoying mass advertising budgets. Even Maxell Tapes, famous for the iconic pop culture “Blown Away Guy” advert, is now a rather prosaic storage company.

So, what has this got to do with Innovation? Everything.

Companies Are Dying Faster

Even before we factor the impact of Coronavirus, 92% of companies felt their business model would be disrupted by digitization and would need to significantly accelerate their plans to address this. This is reinforced by the fact that companies listed on the S&P 500 Index have an average age of 22 years, down from 61 years in 1958.

So, in essence, the lifecycle of a corporation is getting shorter. With digital and the level playing field that technology is creating, this is likely to continue at an even faster pace as ‘old companies’ are replaced by nimbler and more agile organizations with ‘tech’ in their title.

Companies have known for at least 15 years that digital is influencing both the supply and demand side of business models. The supply side has been dominated by the shift to cloud and the proliferation of services, platforms, and infrastructure options that optimize IT agility and performance. On the demand side, consumer behavior has already morphed into a myriad of hybrid digital consumption preferences from virtual workouts in Vietnam, to the latest movies available instantly in 4K. With Covid-19, we could be witnessing a watershed moment with a cross generational shift to a predominantly digital default.

The stark reality facing all organizations right now is not only to survive the current Covid-19 pandemic, but how to bounce back even stronger post-crisis with the right business model—and the right people to make it happen.

Opportunity in a Crisis

We have seen fantastic examples of large and small companies who are innovative by design and pivoted their resources (and production capabilities) at an incredible pace to meet the challenges of Covid-19. From Formula 1 motor racing teams to vacuum cleaning companies, many have risen to the challenge to help defeat this latest global pandemic. These companies are challenging their people to do better and innovate faster. As a consequence, I’m willing to bet that these companies will be around long after the crisis.

Of course, not every company in every industry can directly support the Covid-19 ‘war effort’, but they do have a responsibility to look at the best options for post-crisis growth. This is a once in a generation opportunity to look at their existing business model through a digital lens and start thinking—really thinking—about the future.

Many technology and business consultants talk about ‘through cycle’ as a mechanism and an attitude to constant renewal. With an Innovation Program mindset and a fully tuned platform to support it, organizations move from ideation to experimentation to scale as an organic, embedded part of their commercial motion. I discuss this further in my whitepaper “Turning Ideas into Dollars”.

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Becoming Innovative by Design

A robust innovation strategy gives companies the potential to re-invest, re-direct resources and, ultimately, renew profitability. To achieve this, organizational leadership needs to regard innovation as a company-wide competence or discipline—and not confine it to particular function to organize and run occasional brainstorms or ‘idea hack’ sessions.

The innovation imperative can be now be accelerated by choosing a platform that can make it a systematic part of organizational culture. In essence, an Innovation Program without an Innovation Platform is like having a car without any fuel. The difference is that this ‘car’ can run on renewable talent resources within the organization—augmented by external resources and expertise that can help turn ideas into dollars.

To help companies build their Innovation Program, SoftServe has made its leading-edge Innovation-Platform software available to companies free-of-charge for as long as the Covid-19 crisis continues. SoftServe also has fully accredited resources who can support and deliver remotely to ensure successful outcomes.

SoftServe’s global Innovation Center of Excellence (CoE) stands ready to deliver end-to-end support to get innovation done and our Innovation Platform drives a three-step, all-inclusive innovation process, backed by over 26 years of innovation service experience.

Let’s talk about where you are in your enterprise innovation journey, and how SoftServe enables our clients to emulate the success of the world’s most innovative companies.