Despite enduring the initial blow of the pandemic, the business community is largely still in the recovery phase. Everyone is trying to maintain continuity and to surface the still-tumultuous economic sea. Many companies are just waiting for what will happen and not willing to take risks or invest in new ideas. But we know that every crisis comes with opportunities. What about the potential of innovative solutions that are born during times of recession?
Now, more than ever, companies should invest in innovation. It’s the only way to set themselves apart from the competition and to attract top talent during this difficult time.
How can we make the most of innovation and place it as a top priority for our company during the post-crisis normal?
Innovation as your competitive advantage
During the pandemic, many businesses faced a “make it or break it” situation: they had to choose between pivoting to adapt to the changing needs of consumers and suffering or letting their business die.
Even if we were over the worst of the pandemic, the new normal will make consumer demands continue to evolve, unlikely to go back to their pre-crisis state. For instance, the consumer switch to online solutions, and preference for reduced-contact channels will remain. The crisis had just accelerated the growth of virtual and remote solutions.
How are we so sure innovation is going to work?
- In past recessions, disruptive trends have thrived. During the last economic downturn post-2008, the smartphone market saw significant growth, as did software-as-a-service (SaaS), with Salesforce seeing an uptick in customers in the same period.
- History has shown that the most successful businesses have been disruptors. According to Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation, innovative companies are able to take market share in “low-end footholds” and in “new market footholds” — making a newfound economic landscape a great opportunity to launch truly disruptive products and services.
One example that currently evidences this trend is telemedicine. While the technology was adopted primarily due to the necessities of COVID-19, many healthcare professionals and patients are now realizing how telemedicine can drive efficiency and improve access to healthcare, even post-crisis.
Redesigning your business model
The pandemic made a lot of us rethink how we work or what we produce. While our instinctive reaction to change is often negative, this is often where the real opportunities for innovation lie.
- With the advent of remote work, many businesses are realizing the benefits of giving employees the flexibility to do their jobs from distributed locations. Even when a lot of software development companies were already on the wave, mostly big companies were still resentful to the idea. Now Facebook and Twitter have both announced that their workforces will be able to work permanently from home from now on. Not only will this bold move save the employers on overhead costs, but it will also give teams the flexibility to be more productive and creative in their preferred environments.
The key lies in not panicking and, instead of fear the changes, embrace them to come up with new cutting-off ideas. Ultimately, you can’t know whether something works until you actually do it, but innovating means being willing to take the leap into the unknown – and reaping the rewards that cannot be found when playing it safe.
Innovation attracts talent
When businesses become known for innovation, they attract – and retain – top talent. In fact, 47% of Gen Xers and 42% of millennials say that they would leave their current job not only for a salary increase but also for a “more innovative environment”.
Innovation happens because of people, so attracting candidates that are committed to achieving the same goals will allow you to embed innovation into every aspect of your business strategy and culture.
If you have a diverse and inclusive team that represents those from different gender, ethnicity, cultural or socio-economic backgrounds, innovation will be more likely to happen. This kind of team has proven to drive innovation as they feel safe to present new ideas, offer alternative points of view and experiences, and represent voices that may otherwise go unheard. What’s more, evidencing a commitment to inclusion and innovation will help you attract a more diverse talent pool creating a self-serving cycle.
It’s not easy!
With all that being said, innovation doesn’t come easily, and there’s no guarantee of success. Many of the most disruptive companies out there were able to take the market by storm only after they learned the lessons of multiple failed attempts.
Understanding the importance of innovation – during or after the pandemic – is vital for today’s modern businesses. Just because the market has slowed down doesn’t mean that innovation initiatives should too – in fact, innovation should be your key strategy to help your company thrive in a new world.