Business innovation is about more than creating new products to sell, figuring out how to finance them or how to manufacture them. The same is true for services. It is tempting, during a crisis, to focus on selling more of a product or services right now, or how to create something new to sell right now. However, being innovative entails much more than just doing either.

It is imperative during times of crisis for leadership to change its mindset from surviving to re-building and thriving as an industry. Doing so requires a mindset focused on the community and the greater good.

  • Greater good – Asking how actions taken impact the world, the local community, employees, stakeholders and the supply chain
  • Community – Asking how the industry and the company’s role within it support solutions for the greater good

Taking the following measures will aid in shifting to this innovative mindset.

Curate and Share 

In today’s world, ideas and innovation occur every single day and at lightning speed. The very best often originate on social media channels.

Those who step up as the first to share vital information during critical times can lead to creative thinking across their industry. Sharing this information also generates buzz about their business, sparks conversations between employees and helps differentiate their brand from competitors.

Locating interactions as well creating and curating content are vital.  Use tools such as Mention, Giga Alert to help find interactions that may be occurring about your industry, market, among employees, stakeholders and others that are off-the-beaten path.  You will often find incredibly interesting, helpful and pertinent information of value.  Additionally use content tools such as BuzzSumo or FAQFox to uncover hot topics, as well as questions people are asking right now.

Pivot to Meet Demand 

Innovation also entails pivoting products or services to meet demands from the current market. In this scenario, companies can present their offerings as the solution to the problem at hand. A growing number of organizations have done so in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example:

  • My Pillow shifted its manufacturing operations to produce face masks
  • Tito’s Vodka transitioned its operations to manufacture hand sanitizer
  • Varsity Tutors offered free live, virtual classes and sessions with tutors to kindergarten-through-12th grade students

Participate in an Action Community 

Thought leaders, market leaders, government agencies and stakeholders drive bold innovation in virtually every market and every industry. In order to achieve long-term success, whether during a crisis or in good times, a business must actively participate in the creation and execution of innovation. From creating a community dedicated to innovation, to acting as an active contributor in an established community, any level of involvement is effective. Discussions and perspectives within this community, as well as the latest news, all make an impact on business in both the short-term and long-term.

Join trade associations relevant to your industry.  Sign-up to receive relevant updates about what’s happening within key stakeholder markets.  Keep abreast of government regulations, supreme court cases that may have an impact on your industry or within a market, and so forth.  All of these sources are an investment; some financially and some with time.  However, these can provide valuable insights.  When combined with participation, such as being involved in education, sitting as part of a community, etc. there can be real changes and innovation.

Engage End Users 

While industries, thought leaders and government agencies may come up with ideas, these ideas do not always offer the best ways to solve problems for end users. Formulating effective solutions requires understanding the needs, issues and challenges of end users.

Doing so involves asking end-users questions about their daily experiences with products or services and their current situation. A solid understanding of both is necessary to grasp their pain points and get an “inside” look at what is happening in their world. This may mean experiencing a day in their shoes whether it’s shadowing some as they go about using the product, or even asking end-users to describe their daily habits as they connect with a specific product or service.

Demonstrating a willingness to receive candid, and sometimes difficult, answers in response is also essential. Remaining open to constructive criticism gives a business valuable insight that guides it toward developing better solutions and processes.

While surveying customers and end-users can provide some of the answers needed, they aren’t as valuable as interactions that may be found elsewhere.  Reviews, for example, can be extremely powerful in understanding what customer (both internal customers such as employees, and external customers such as those who buy from you) experiences.

Look to Other Industries 

Examples of other industries that have utilized innovation are an excellent starting point for inspiration. Organizations should look at the tough questions other industries are asking, white paper or other research pieces they are producing and the solutions they have formulated. Obtaining this information can aid in coming up with new ideas.

Google, for example, has millions of white papers, research articles and statistics just waiting for someone to search for them. Simply search for “keyword” or “industry” (replacing either of those with the desired search phrase) plus the type of content you desire.  For example: “Auto Industry White Paper.”

Learn From History 

Crises such as pandemics, economic collapse and devastating natural disasters have occurred throughout the history of the world. These crises offer an excellent opportunity to learn what worked and what failed in terms of ideas and innovation.

Analyzing these crises, specifically how they affected a company’s industry or similar industries, can provide a great deal of valuable information. Questions to consider include the following:

  • How did factors such as the Ebola outbreak, 9/11 and the 2008 recession impact various industries?
  • How did industries adapt?
  • What can business leadership learn from the solutions used?
  • How did the company’s customer base respond to these events?
  • What can business leadership learn about those behaviors?
  • What do these factors teach about crisis to aid them in supporting their customer base’s current needs?

Offer Rewards and Incentives 

It is human nature to strive toward reaching goals when encouragement and motivation are given along the way. The best way to drive innovation, communication, teamwork and creativity is offering incentives. Doing so, appeals to the natural inclination of people to get rewarded.

There is one caveat. While the goal of incentives is to make an immediate impact on employees, incentive programs should also include initiatives that drive long-term goals.

Crises represent an ideal time for businesses to tap into innovation and come up with creative, exciting solutions. Those who take advantage of this opportunity will not just survive crises. They will thrive.

Discover more inspiring ideas for exciting experiences that boost morale and engage your people. Contact Gavel International for details.


Jim Bozzelli