The rebound of global share markets offers mild optimism that the pace of recovery from the pandemic could be swift.
Even so, most industries will require innovation at a faster rate and more cost-efficiently than ever before.
By re-creating the five core components of the innovation process — how you innovate, where you innovate, who you innovate with, what you innovate, and why you innovate — your business could profit from opportunities over your competitors.
How you innovate: Steal ideas
Never have we bounced back out of an economic downturn with so much information available at our fingertips.
We can better predict the ways potential customers will respond to solutions because correlating case studies and data are searchable.
It means you can start looking at pre-tested concepts from competitors or other industries, to adapt and apply them.
The first disposable razor was created by BIC, the disposable-pen company. Gillette, realising a competitor had a better product, quickly copied it and added an extra blade.
Bill Gates was curious about teletype machines and with Paul Allen learnt how to apply their knowledge to create software.
Our creative innovation sessions often start by looking at what we can intentionally borrow from others.
As Mark Twain said: “There are no new ideas, they are all combinations of existing ones.”
Where your innovation is done: Get out of the office
Poorly branded as simply ‘working from home’, the clear benefits of remote work had already been heavily researched and proven before the pandemic.
In our field of creative thinking, we study the methodology of great creators across all fields of business, industry and the arts.
One common thread is it’s rare for people to have their best ideas in the same location where they do more menial tasks.
Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet in a third-floor conference room, and even Archimedes proclaimed ‘Eureka’ stepping into a bath. Yet we expect teams to innovate simply by installing bean bags?
Different ideas require different thinking, and different thinking is driven by different inputs. It is fuelled by an individual’s ability to first notice and then combine differences.
Being in the same location every single day enshrines routine and routine encourages convergence.
Changing the environment inspires divergence and divergent thinking is at the heart of creativity.
Who your innovation partners are: Connect with other organisations and industries
We have facilitated thousands of ideation sessions within companies, but rarely with more than one business in the same room.
The pandemic has given us evidence of what happens when companies come together to tackle problems.
Qantas quickly redeployed staff into Woolworths to provide ongoing employment. The next step would be for their staff to jointly explore customer acquisition challenges.
The airline staff will have a fresh perspective that Woolworths staff may have overlooked, that could be of benefit to both Qantas and Woolworths, and vice versa.
Most companies have similar problems: customer acquisition, retention and growth.
What problem do you have in common with another business so you can share the costs and the learning?
Watch out for ‘cross-company open innovation’ to be talked about a lot this year.
What you innovate: Lead from the bottom, not the top
Innovation has traditionally been a top-down approach, with leadership determining the resources allocated to various projects, decided upon by the management structure.
What has been clear during the pandemic, is the problem-solving toolkit of under-30s is sharp because of their native use of digital platforms. While some people were making sourdough, the digital natives were creating, failing, learning and iterating.
Through their networks, they are often closer to the needs of the customer and have more tools at their disposal to deal with them quickly.
One of the other advantages of the COVID-19 time has been the reported loosening of layers of decision making.
Many businesses have gone on instinct and experience alone and not relied on waiting for proof before acting.
By allowing the innovation agenda to be created and green-lit at the coalface, you can respond much faster.
Why you innovate: Focus on purpose and profit
Creating meaningful purpose in your business has gained traction as a topic of the last decade, but the pandemic has taken enormous strides towards the demonstration of this.
Being ‘all in it together’, or being of genuine help and value, have been put at the top of the queue — with profit the side-effect of delivering value.
Two of the values in our business are to ‘help people’ and ‘do good’, which ultimately steers our decision making.
If what we do isn’t helping someone or doing good, why are we doing it? Never have we used those values as much as we have over this time.
Profit will come if we do those things well by creating real value for the customer.
It’s often said, life is what we create it to be. Maybe the time has arrived for innovating the very system we rely on for innovation to occur.
By re-creating your innovation process first, you might just get a fast start and outpace your competitors on the run home in 2020.