We all know it is not business as usual at the moment, and it’s even more important than ever for us to carefully prioritize where we focus our efforts both individually and collectively. However, I have recently been seeing reports of many businesses going into survival mode; choosing not to invest in innovation and instead save precious resources. In my personal experience as Qmarkets’ VP of Product and Customer Success, and inspired by dozens of our leading customers, I have a deep belief that innovation management should not be viewed as a luxury, but as a strategic means of placing your business in the best possible position to navigate times of crisis.
While disruptive periods like this can be incredibly damaging, you only have to look at the companies founded during previous recessions to see that a crisis can also create many opportunities. These opportunities can be impossible to predict, so it’s crucial to keep your eyes (and minds) open to identifying these. However, there are some benefits that are guaranteed to emerge from disruption, from continuous improvement and creating a transparent ideation process, to pivoting, and altruistic innovation. This blog will shine a light on these opportunities, and help your organization to save resources, create new revenue streams, and thrive going forward. Whichever objective you aim for, the most important thing is that you make use of your most valuable resource – your community – whether that is your employees, your customers, or your external stakeholders.
Casualties of Innovation Complacency
The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has forced all companies to act. Certain organizations were pre-aligned to thrive in the Covid world, for example Zoom’s profit has grown by 300%, online retailers such as Amazon have seen their quarterly profit double, and Netflix have seen their subscriber rates accelerate throughout the pandemic.
Amazon shares how eliminating the ‘institutional no’ and ‘serial no’ from the management chain, to allow for a more collaborative process has helped the company establish its innovative culture.
But if you aren’t lucky enough to work for Zoom, Amazon or Netflix, your organization will have to innovate in some way in order to survive.
‘Some 21,000 more UK businesses collapsed in March than the same month a year ago’. The transport industry for instance has been the hardest hit ‘with almost three times more businesses ceasing to trade (194 per cent)’ than any other industry. While some of the industry’s largest contenders have filed for bankruptcy (such as LATAM, Virgin Australia and Flybe) others, (including American Airlines, Icelandair, and our clients Lufthansa) have pivoted to cargo as demand for freight soars. Quoted in the FT, Brian Bourke chief growth officer at Illinois-based Seko Logistics, said of “(Cargo-only flights), are not going to replace the passenger revenue at all, but it helps”.
If these airlines had not innovated quickly in response to the crisis – would they have fared so well?
Implementing innovation management can transform your company culture to one where your employees continuously hunt for new ideas, not only does this make pivoting easier in times of crisis, but it makes your organization far more agile and dynamic, giving it the ability to constantly adapt to new processes, revenue streams, and thus have more potential to grow.
The Opportunity in Crisis – Now or Never?
Innovation should always be a top priority for any organization interested in gaining – or maintaining – a competitive market advantage. However, in times of uncertainty and disruption the need to innovate becomes a strategic imperative that must be embedded throughout your entire organization. Regardless of the level of perceived risk, or perceived benefit, there are a wealth of opportunities that your company should consider.
1. Continuously Improve your Business for the Better
Not only does innovation mean looking for those big disruptive ideas, but it also means providing a platform to implement small improvements that continuously place your business in a better position. Continuous improvement allows for your stakeholders to challenge the current processes and workflows within your business and change them for the better. This improves employee satisfaction, cut costs, and make your business more efficient – which is paramount to survival today. Continuous Improvement can be viewed as ‘risk free’ innovation. Instead of investing in disruptive ideas that have higher risk and reward, spreading the cost of innovation to make small improvements can hugely benefit your company whilst limiting the amount that you invest. Qmarkets’ provides your employees with a process to suggest ideas for incremental change that continuously improves your organization, resulting in a range of benefits, and placing your organization in a stronger position to survive in the face of disruption.
2. Transparency in Times of Uncertainty
In the remote era employee engagement has become increasingly important. The pandemic and recession have forced everyone into a period of uncertainty. Whilst the usual means of collaboration and communication have changed, the importance of these have only increased. Implementing innovation on a large scale within your organization shows your employees that you are reacting to the crisis. This increases employees’ confidence in the company they work for, and with an innovation management platform, allows full transparency and collaboration to meet the organization’s goals and challenges.
Recently the Iowa Department of Transportation successfully deployed Qmarkets’ innovation platform, giving a space for internal stakeholders to share their ideas, as well as a separate space for internal and external stakeholders to collaborate on challenges raised by the department. Various methods are utilized on the platform to allow for users to engage with one another and collaborate on ideas, such as crowd voting, gamification, and social functions. Our platform was chosen specifically to increase engagement from stakeholders, as well as increase transparency on the idea process.
Using innovation as means to engage your workforce has the potential to drive ROI from so many different directions. It has been proven that with increased employee engagement, your organization will see increased productivity, have a higher chance of success and better employee performance, creating a stronger, more profitable workforce.
3. Pivot Quickly to Meet Changes in Demand
There are many examples of businesses having to adapt to the new demands Covid-19 has presented, and a multitude of ways businesses have pivoted to meet new demand. Take for example closed restaurants adapting to ‘operate as retailers’, converting branches into grocery stores or selling own branded goods via delivery apps. Another example is UK retail giants Sainsbury’s using closed stores as fulfilment centers to meet the unprecedented demand for online grocery shopping throughout lockdown. After the initial surge in profit, many supermarkets chose not to invest in adapting to the sudden changes, perhaps hoping that things would quickly return to normal. However now that we’re facing an even longer period of lockdown and disruption, the early adopters are in pole position to capitalize.
Our clients Philip Morris International, the American transnational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, launched our innovation management platform to engage more than 73,000 employees as part of their crowdsourced ideation initiative. In the face of increasing regulatory disruption, they made the incredible decision to re-invent their business model and move away from traditional tobacco-based products. While this is still a work in progress, it is a move that will position PMI for long-term success, ahead of competitors who are ‘staying still’ and relying on an unsustainable business model.
4. The Chain is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link.
Covid-19 has proven to us, that we are one big community that depends on each other.
Companies have not only innovated to help keep themselves afloat, but also help others through altruistic efforts. As normal levels of demand fell during lockdown, companies pivoted to meet demand for essential goods, for example Siemens have begun to manufacture 3D printers for the global medical community, Coca-Cola’s supply chain have started to produce hand sanitizer, and our clients Ford Otosan began to manufacture masks to meet Turkey’s demand.
The ability to innovate has not only opened new revenue streams for these companies but has allowed them to help other industries in dire need in the fight against Covid-19.
How to Build a Business Case for Innovation Management
When building a business case for innovation, idea management platforms are vital in proving your investment will be worth the risk. Critically, Qmarkets’ solutions allow you to carefully define and measure the ROI of your innovation ventures at every stage of the process, ensuring that everyone is accountable to a transparent process.
The whole innovation management process is created to help you maximize the success you deliver, so that you can be certain that your resources are being put to good use, and your investment will put you in good stead throughout any crisis.
Helping you to Innovate Now
When implementing innovation as part of your strategy inside a crisis or outside, Qmarkets’ idea management platform will give you the means to access a wealth of ideas that can help you innovate effectively. You can gather the wisdom of your employees and use their suggestions to transform ideas into results, invite your external stakeholders to collaborate too, and successfully tackle the current issues your business is facing by inviting users to take part in timed idea challenges – ideal in times of crisis.
When building a business case for innovation the main point you should remember is that innovation helps organizations become more agile and dynamic, ultimately strengthening their positioning in times of crisis. Innovation should be viewed as part of a long-term strategy to create more opportunities, revenue, streamline current processes, cut costs, and diversify. Now is the time to find smarter ways of doing more to survive, and thrive, through crisis and beyond.