Why Companies Need Their Innovators Now More Than Ever

May 08, 2020

By now, it’s a well-established fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting every aspect of society, including business. Companies are suddenly faced with a fully remote workforce, shifting corporate priorities, disrupted supply chains, and, in some industries, layoffs and dramatic drops in revenue.

For many businesses, survival is the first priority, closely followed by long-term questions about how the pandemic will permanently alter the way they do business. It’s a time to pivot, and a time for innovation. Smart companies should look to their innovators to help them map a path through difficult times.

If you’re an innovator, you already possess a skill set that’s well-matched to tackling the business challenges of COVID, from ensuring that operations keep running to developing a plan to help your company adapt to the “new-normal”. There are several reasons why companies need their innovators and it’s the right time for innovation professionals to speak up.

It will never be business as usual
The majority of employees are extremely good at making the machine run. It’s what they do every day and their companies couldn’t survive without them. During a pandemic, however, when disruption is the only constant, a business-as-usual mindset is a hindrance.

Innovators are trained to look to the future and consider what’s next. Innovators are comfortable with ambiguity and making decisions with limited data. Innovators know how to experiment, scale success and limit failure. In sum, they possess the right mindset for an unsettled business environment.

Innovators have the networks
A fundamental shift that’s occurred over the past few decades is the acknowledgement that companies can respond to rapidly- changing markets much more effectively by fostering partnerships. “Not invented here” is the stubborn relic of a past era, and the speed of innovation is simply too fast for any company to outrun.

Innovators scouting for new technology and partners have built impressive networks of companies, startups, universities and researchers that they can call upon to help with problem-solving. This network can be instrumental to companies in crisis-mode.

Innovators deliver on impossible timelines and with limited budgets. They know how to pilot and prototype and fail fast. Their resourcefulness and mental toughness help them to produce results in challenging environments. In the midst of the most unsettled business climate in recent memory, this is exactly the skill-set companies need.

If you’re an innovation professional, how best to advocate within your organization for you to take a bigger role in the response and/or business pivots?

Resuscitate projects
Whether it was due to strategic shifts, organizational change, political “blockers” or other reasons, most companies have projects sitting on the shelf. Now that everything’s changed, perhaps these stalled projects can find new legs.

Think big & be proactive
This could be time when big, bold ideas get serious consideration. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Show initiative by putting your ideas into a plan and share it with senior management.

Shift gears
Companies are thinking less about long-term strategy than short-term survival. Innovators need to pivot as well. Bring fresh eyes and perspective to help the business units solve their most pressing challenges.

In times of great challenge, you need to throw away the rulebook and rethink every aspect of your business. This requires muscles that innovators are flexing every day, and companies would be wise to put these people at the forefront of their planning.


Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash



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