Innovating to succeed: An opportunity in crisis

We are, arguably, in the midst of the worst pandemic of our lifetime. Almost all economies across the world are stuttering and businesses are facing unprecedented challenges. Both employers and employees are exploring all opportunities to survive, sustain and succeed. Success strategies of the past are widely seen as irrelevant, which is prompting leaders to experiment with a number of varied and unproven business approaches. If there is one single strategy that could help weather the pandemic, and at the same time catapult businesses and individuals to success, it would be ‘Innovation’.

Many people think of innovation as a growth strategy rather than a survival strategy. Most survival mindsets force people to be either extremely defensive or overly aggressive, which also inhibits creativity and the ability to envision the future in a new way, to think of new ways of delivering service, new ways of realizing efficiencies across our organizations. But innovation can help move us to better places, especially in times of crisis.

How can we navigate this crisis using innovation to propel us?

  1. First thing first what is needed is a change in mindset. We need to deliberately move from a defensive mindset to a creative mindset. Yes, innovation often comes from necessity, but necessity alone is not sufficient: fear will always stifle creativity. We should create a fearless environment within the organization that promotes creative thinking. Necessity coupled with creative freedom brings the best ideas to the fore.
  2. Look within before you look out. Our natural tendency is to try change the external environment first. This strategy doesn’t normally work in a crisis. Crisis, by definition, is something is beyond our control. Our strategy should be to control the controllable and look for innovative solutions within. To change the world around you, you need to first change yourself.
  3. There is no silver bullet. There is no alternative to hard work and persistence. Expect and account for failures. Never hesitate to experiment — there is no better time to experiment than a crisis. Solicit and implement new ideas. You are not looking for that one arrow that hits the target, rather a collection of arrows that turns the tide with its sheer density and intensity. Micro innovations are the key.
  4. Finally, take your people along. No crisis has been overcome without committed and loyal people working with you. At the end of the day, what triumphs is the insatiable ingenuity of human will. For this, you need your people by your side through the difficult twists and turns of the journey.

This crisis is not a blip in the radar, nor is it going to be a passing dream. Whether we like it or not, it’s right in our way blocking our path. It’s up to us to decide the course of action. Do we go back? Do we wait? Do we cut through it? Do we take a diversion, or do we make our own path? The choice is ours. If we do not make that choice it may be that somebody else could make it for us.

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Written By: Louis Mathew, EY GDS Client Service Delivery Transformation and Operations Leader
Please Note: ‘The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent the firm’s views.