do something great neon signBusinesses take the lead and work toward common goals

In January, predictions for the year were optimistic with many areas of society benefiting from innovation. They included: growth in remote working; personalised healthcare; autonomous vehicles; challenging work norms; employment and education changes; and finally a surge in tech literacy among all generations. The increasingly popular mindfulness culture was also forecast to grow. Now, as we enter the second quarter of 2020, these predictions have either come to fruition or been left by the wayside.

Many projections have been propelled forwards — including remote working and technology literacy — in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas others have been shelved potentially permanently. What is clear is that the pandemic has caused people the world over to revise priorities and immediate needs in the face of human tragedy. Furthermore, the disruption to ‘business as usual’ has revealed systemic weaknesses in many business processes. Organisations worldwide are feeling the effects and the global economy is being impacted in unprecedented ways.

While the tragic loss of life cannot be ignored, the coronavirus pandemic is inspiring innovation in several sectors in response to the situation as well as businesses taking the lead and pivoting to meet the changes in consumer trends and needs. Using historic pandemics as a guide, we are now in the midst of a wave of innovation and the altering of societies, possibly permanently and hopefully for the betterment of all. One aspect that has become immediately obvious is that overall innovation needs a concise target. Now, we have a global consensus on what this target is: fighting the pandemic together with adjustments to daily life and businesses to follow.

Organisations are stepping up to make change happen

Traditionally, we turn to governments for leadership during times of crises. But COVID-19 is not a typical crisis. It has impacted the entire world and this has generated a sense of unity in purpose. Further, governments are responding in different ways to the pandemic, sometimes radically so. The struggle to fight novel coronavirus and the ensuing change to business and everyday life has left the floor open to business leaders and entrepreneurs. They are innovating and delivering solutions in real-time that spark social change on the side as well. Supermarket CEOs are considering the most vulnerable members of society and putting them first in line for online orders. Fragrance manufacturers including LVMH are switching entire lines of operations to produce hand sanitiser. Virtual work tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom have exploded in popularity, and not just for work purposes.

Virtual work is showing us that colleagues, clients, competitors and partners can be seen as instant equals when viewed through the webcam. Seemingly, our common differences are evaporating through the lens of the common challenges and our shared circumstances.

Recent changes have proven that reducing the impact of climate change can be actioned through daily work practices as we see carbon emissions fall globally including in the three largest polluting regions of China, Europe and the US, according to data published by National Geographic

Indeed, flexitime and home-working during periods of absence seemed a perennial topic of discussion that never moved forwards until last month. Now, workers are proving it is possible to care for children while getting work tasks done.

Innovation takes the front seat

Businesses are faced with the notion of pivoting for survival and are becoming more agile in their operations to prevent decline. One area seeing significant change is customer experience. Organisations are completely rethinking and remapping their customer journey and the changes being implemented now are likely to stick around once this crisis ends. Experience-driven companies have been hit so hard that they are reimagining the way customers interact with them.

If you are considering where to innovate to prevent decline during the pandemic, your customer experience is an ideal place to begin. Examining your products and services from the perspective of jobs to be done (JTBD) gives insight. JTBD looks at the underlying objectives going through consumers’ minds when they are considering your product or service and how it will benefit their lives. Arguably, these points are more important now than in recent years.

Collaboration not competition leads the way

Business leaders recently said they have moved towards working collectively to spark innovation, rather than through competitive drive for leading the market. When placed within the backdrop of a global pandemic, this approach of pooling skills and creativity seems apt. 

George Lewis, Vice President of Business Development and Strategy at innovation-based company Arena Solutions, commented in an interview with Digital Journal in April that “to be able to pivot quickly, product manufacturers require collaboration across their extended enterprise. Adoption of solutions that enable and foster such collaboration allow companies to react quicker and be more informed as challenges persist.”

Mr Lewis added: “We [Arena Solutions] firmly believe providing collaborative cloud-based solutions that can be provisioned quickly is key to helping companies scale the production of new products including those used to fight COVID-19.”

Even workforces have become fluid since the COVID-19 pandemic destabilised businesses. In Australia and New Zealand, multinational software company Adobe is set to provide jobs to another company’s workforce that was recently laid off. Looking ahead, it seems likely that collaboration as a field of innovation may branch out beyond virtual tools to include the more fundamental ways companies do business and interact with one another.