COVID-19 has reminded the humankind that we live in uncertain times. The experts in healthcare made several recommendations and forecasts which were soon found to be irrelevant. Nobody is certain about the way the future is going to unfold. Winston Churchill said once, “True genius resides in the capacity of evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” Amidst the uncertainty, every progressive organisation has to make plans for the future, develop new products and services and make changes in their work processes. Do we see changes in the way we innovate?
What have we learnt in recent times?
Firstly, technology has been developing faster than ever than before. We see a whole host of new developments around us: augmented reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, big data techniques, 3D printing, driverless vehicles, drone technologies, space travel, 5G and new communication technologies. Are we thinking of using them to generate greater value in our enterprises?
Secondly, we have relearned the value of collaborative working, especially when we have been gripped by the pandemic. Companies are collaboratively working to solve problems. Rivals like Google and Apple came together to build a contact tracing software to help fight the disease. Every enterprise needs to think if they are collaborating enough with others to generate value together.
We also learn that agility is the biggest virtue an organisation can have in these tough times. This helps change focus to new prospects and transform well-established norms to a set of new norms that are needed for the hour. How does our enterprise score on agility?
Where do we start?
Since the early 2000s, a lot has been written and deliberated about the innovation practices at P&G in particular and companies like Apple, HP, 3M, DuPont, GE and IBM. In all of these cases, it was the leadership intent and involvement which turned the wheel favourably. They focused on building an innovation culture in the organisation to increase revenues and reduce costs.
The leaders promoted the behaviours of working with customers closely to understand their stated as well as latent needs, gather the fine nuances of customer needs and wants. They encouraged their employees to apply those insights in the company’s business processes and develop new products. These new ideas were systematically evaluated, funded and a few were chosen to see the light of the day to boost revenues and reduce costs. These methods have been widely documented, however not practised very well. Given the fact that we are witnessing a fast-changing world that is volatile and uncertain, we need to innovate fast. Hence, we need to bring these best practices to life.
New approaches may be needed
Traditionally any organisation guards its innovation journey and the information around it fiercely. They put in place layers of security in their information systems and stringent processes to prevent leakage of information about the development taking place. All of this has been in vogue because innovation provides a competitive advantage to an organisation.
On the other hand, we see Android being an open system has proliferated while Blackberry’s proprietary operating system died. Apple started growing faster when they made their systems open to developers to bring in applications. Open systems, software and standards have helped the growth of the world of technology in the last few years. Given the fact that collaboration is becoming a new order, why not open innovation?
Like Google and Apple came together to build an application to help fight COVID-19, can the auto manufacturers come together to accelerate the process of driverless vehicles and environment-friendly technologies that can increase travel speeds and reduce traffic on the road? Can the consumer electronics companies come together to bring robots to market at an affordable cost to improve efficiencies and reduce costs? Open innovation could be a plausible route for companies to innovate.