“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”Theodore Levitt
“We don’t know who discovered water, but we’re certain it wasn’t a fish.”John Culkin
Now more than ever, doing new things is going to be critical as we emerge from the lockdown and the subsequent realignment – both in our personal lives and our business lives. Trying to preserve businesses and jobs is important, and while the initial subsidy and support is geared towards existing businesses, surely support needs to be offered to those early stage innovative companies who have the agility and thinking required to do new things.
We have seen local innovative companies like Lanaco see a huge spike in demand for their filter media used in the 3M N95 face masks. This is great news for their staff, shareholders and their customers. The reliance on supply chains has become more and more important at a time when supply chains are creaking and have reduced capacity and options.
There are many other unheralded local companies who are still working on opportunity here and globally. Innovative thinking to support supply chains, especially in food/agriculture is in high demand, and we are seeing local companies collaborating to support global giants like Maersk during these challenging times. These companies need support, and fuel to continue. We should be seeing funding become available from government agencies such as Callaghan Innovation, MBIE or the newly rebranded VIF to support those at the early stages and often pre-revenue. It would be a crime for these to wither and die on the vine. Subsidies and support to those companies should be an investment in future innovation. I imagine that the university research laboratories will be actively working, if they aren’t already.
On the other side of this, what can we take advantage of what we learn about ourselves and each other? As Lord Byron wrote:
“May all beings develop a commitment to waking up and staying awake.”Lord Byron
We need to think differently about the problems we solve and the way we solve them. What was yesterday’s barrier, may no longer exist tomorrow, be bold. If you previously had issues with market access/or channel rub these issues may no longer be there. Ask for another perspective on this and be prepared to be tested and challenged. Have your engagement model evaluated, review your strategy when it comes to market and revenue – question what you know, use your advisors to help test your business for the opportunity ahead, not just the stress of today.
Will the current situation lead to the adoption of greater technology and automation in some industries? What percentage of business transaction don’t require human touch? Recently, airways let go 160 staff as a result of the lockdown, which causes people to ask who will control airspace after the lockdown ends? Will technology be used to ‘people-proof’ essential industry? Will this see the rise of ‘Skynet’ scenarios in the future? Maybe this is an opportunity to re-evaluate your business model and operating structure. Ask yourself, what can you do now rather than focus on what you can’t do.
About four years ago, we met an entrepreneur who was looking to develop an online system for remote doctor consultations, mainly helping those isolated in rural areas. The industry was incredibly resistant to the use of technology, even though it was going to improve efficiency – we asked what he thought would disrupt the industry, he presciently said a pandemic or doctor shortage. The current Covid-19 threat to safety has forced the medical profession to adapt to protect primary health care practitioners from potential infection. Will online consultations be a ‘thing’ after lockdown? Will traditional office-based roles be the same or will the current working from home be emergency/lockdown options only. Time will tell, just don’t let the opportunity to reset and test your thinking go to waste.
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