5 Reasons innovation is needed more than ever

Plato once said: “necessity is literally the mother of invention” and he continues to be correct. There is increasing evidence that the lockdown is a catalyst for a huge wave of innovation across industry, business, and everyday life.

  • By Harry McCarney
  • 4 min read

Plato once said: “necessity is literally the mother of invention” and he continues to be correct. There is increasing evidence that the lockdown is a catalyst for a huge wave of innovation across industry, business, and everyday life.

Here are 5 reasons why you should focus on innovation during the lockdown.

1. The world is becoming more agile

Progress has always been driven by adversity. Crisis is a powerful catalyst for new paradigms to emerge and it’s clear that the current COVID-19 crisis will be no different. Massive new laboratories with hundreds of scientists working on vaccines have been set up in a matter of weeks across the UK. Automotive companies such as Jaguar Land Rover are now partnering with medical device companies to create ventilators. Even the UK parliament is using video conferences to hold debates. In normal times these changes would have taken many years.

This agile response demonstrates that even highly regulated sectors like health, government and manufacturing can innovate at speed when risk assessments tip the scales from bureaucracy towards adaptability. The behavioural shift we’re witnessing will manifest in millions of small decisions and interactions between people who now adopt collective responsibility for a solution, rather than working to rule on one of its parts. This form of collaboration is the very essence of innovation. It’s also what Agile and Lean consultants have been advocating, with limited success, until now.

We can hope that this way of working will continue and the ‘corona spirit’ will become synonymous with creative collaboration.

2. Extra bandwidth for Innovation

One of the key obstacles to innovation is Business As Usual (BAU). BAU can absorb all available time and energy and much needed innovation projects are placed on the back burner.

We have an unprecedented opportunity right now to use time for innovation over BAU. Even those companies that are coping well with the lockdown are quieter than usual and therefore staff have extra time to concentrate creative energy on innovation projects. There will never be a better time to revisit those ideas and projects which you had been too busy to address.

3. Long term behavioural changes demand innovation

We now know that leaving the house isn’t strictly necessary. Reports in the press about the effect of the coronavirus lockdown on everything from music to friendship may be overplayed but it’s clear that this reconfiguration of everyday life will leave a lasting effect.

Many people have learned to use internet banking and order food online. Remote working and Zoom meetups are also here to stay. This fundamental shift in behaviour, and accompanying digital training will create increased demand for more automated and self serve services. Businesses that rely on face to face contact have begun to look archaic and consumers will demand ‘digital first’ experiences.

Projects like HS2, and all the businesses that would spring up around it, suddenly look on the wrong side of history. And house prices…The mega real estate in London which inflates the whole UK property market will become a ghost town as staff are able to work remotely from more affordable rural locations. These changes will have profound and far reaching effects.

4. Processes need to become lockdown proof

The crisis has cast a bright light on the ‘points of failure’ in our economy. Many industries are now looking at how they can make their processes more resilient to disruption. In short, we need lockdown-proof businesses and innovative solutions are needed to make this happen.

Supply chain in particular has buckled under the pressure of increased demand and decreased product availability. Whether it’s delays with the availability of PPE, or the shutdown of online supermarkets that failed to scale up to the increased demand, this stress testing has revealed many opportunities to create more efficient and robust processes.

Manufacturing needs to become less reliant on large numbers of workers working at the same location. At Hack and Craft we have already seen an increased interest in our industrial simulation technology which helps model the effect of process changes before they are rolled out in more costly real life trials.This technology and others will introduce deeper process automation and address the critical points of failure highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis.

5. Tougher competition will demand innovation

It is certain that the competitive landscape will become tougher. Companies dependent on pre-coronavirus processes will be forced to price in contingency plans and inevitably pass the cost to their customers. Also, the quality of products and services produced by lockdown exposed companies will inevitably decrease leading to a loss of market share.

Conversely, businesses that innovate away their exposure to lockdown risk will maintain or even reduce prices.

This pressure, combined with the market’s increased digital savvy, will mean customers will quickly switch to more competitive companies. Winning companies will be those that very rapidly adopt lockdown beating technology capable of maintaining high quality production at competitive prices.

Covid-19 has triggered a new wave of innovation. In the near future we will be able to trace the origin of essential technology and systems back to these turbulent times.