As a business leader, your first thought in a crisis might be closer to “We need to survive the next few months” than “We need to focus on innovation.” After all, you need to first navigate the crisis before you can think about investing in a new technology or changing your service lines, right?
Actually, innovation is the key to the kinds of business breakthroughs you need to achieve in order to thrive in a crisis — say, perhaps, a global pandemic.
Think of the wireless service providers like Verizon and T-Mobile that have invested billions in expanding their networks to deliver the speeds we need to do our work from home, or the companies that didn’t shy away from adopting automation tech, drones, and robotics that now help keep their businesses running without putting workers in danger. These innovations have allowed these companies to provide exceptional value to their customers during a tumultuous period.
It might be enticing to think about sticking to the status quo until you’ve perfected every bit of your existing strategy, especially when navigating uncertainty. But the business world — and the world at large — moves faster than that. Even in uncertain times, making innovative changes can provide the boost you need to get back on your feet and put you in a stronger position down the road.
“There’s a temptation to slow down innovation efforts, but top leaders understand that this is actually a time to double down on innovation,” says Ross Morel, CEO of FrogSlayer, a custom software development and business innovation consulting firm. “The impact of COVID-19 is universal, affecting nearly all industries. This can actually be a great time to rethink and reimagine many aspects of your business or market. There’s no risk of rocking the boat if the storm has already hit.”
The companies that collaborate and innovate quickly to pivot during the pandemic will be the ones that continue to survive and even grow. If you want to succeed despite the circumstances, you need to do the same. Not sure which areas of your business are ripe for innovation? Start with these three strategies to innovate and usher in your next business boost:
Invest in emerging technology.
This first option is likely the most obvious. When you think of innovation, technology likely springs to mind almost immediately. And for good reason: Oracle and Enterprise Strategy Group research shows companies that adopt emerging technology grow revenue 58% more quickly and profit 80% more quickly than companies that don’t take advantage of emerging tech. The report also shows more specific benefits of innovating through tech, such as productivity boosts for finance companies that use artificial intelligence tools and ROI increases for organizations that use blockchain to augment their supply chain management.
These improvements are critical for brands experiencing a crisis. Doubling down on your existing processes won’t help you raise your ROI or productivity numbers when the previous status quo isn’t relevant anymore. Instead, dive deep into your existing tech stack and processes to determine where emerging tech could improve efficiency, saving employees time and allowing them to put energy toward future business breakthroughs.
Focus on agility and strategy within internal teams.
Speaking of your employees, team structure, communication, and even individual roles can be great candidates for innovation, too. As you review your company’s processes, consider new ways your teams could work together in addition to how new tech could fit in. Opening new avenues for collaboration may be just the spark your company needs to come up with the next big initiative. You may also consider shifting employees’ roles to address immediate needs, like Ford and GM have done to produce necessary products like ventilators for hospitals around the country.
Finally, be sure your lines of communication between employees, management, and leadership are open at all times. Pass critical information to all levels of the organization, and emphasize that while everyone’s working hard on new tasks, some failure isn’t just OK but is expected — and even necessary — to quickly move toward growth.
Change up your services.
Once your teams and tech are updated and ready to move forward with agility, you can turn your attention to the products or services you provide customers. Crisis can come in many forms, from the loss of a large client or rock-star employee to economic instability to global pandemic. When a crisis touches your customers, chances are good that their needs might change. That opens the door for you to address their new challenges through innovation.
Take payroll provider Gusto, for example: The company pivoted its offerings to help small businesses apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans at the beginning of the pandemic. Startup Aunt Bertha has pivoted its social care networking service as well to prioritize connecting people to the resources they need to weather the pandemic, accounting for the rapid increase in demand for those resources. Follow in these brands’ footsteps by reaching out to your customers, assessing their needs, and using your newfound innovation ability to meet them.
Innovation shouldn’t stop just because your business is facing an unexpected crisis. As you develop your company’s plan for addressing a crisis, consider how you can innovate with tech, your teams, and your offerings. Pursuing innovation even in times of uncertainty can help lead your company to breakthroughs that will be the key to surviving this and future crises.
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