Exploring the Connection between Resilience and Innovation Leadership

Group of people rafting down a river.
Working together overcomes unexpected challenges.

Innovation leadership is all about meeting challenges and overcoming obstacles in new and creative ways. Sometimes those obstacles are more urgent than others. A supplier abruptly closes, a server farm crashes, or a product design doesn’t meet standards when prototyped. This is where innovation leadership is most important, as a keystone for resilience.

Why Does Resilience Need Innovation?

We’ve all heard that necessity is the mother of invention, but it’s not until we experience it for ourselves that this truism is thrown into sharp relief. For example, the Gap experienced a fire in one of its major fulfillment centers just a few months before the holiday shopping season began in earnest. The company saved its season by pulling on a “pop-up” fulfillment center in Gallatin, TN it had used the previous season and restarting it. The company also called on a systems integrator to help it get the facility up to speed and those jeans and sweaters out the door that much faster.

The company also began applying techniques with which it’d been experimenting, such as automating certain aspects of its fulfillment centers, that it’s continuing to refine and expand even today. In short, the Gap was already planning to make these leaps, but life gave the company a brisk, hard shove that took away its choices. Either the company would deliver a holiday shopping season, or it wouldn’t.

This underscores why innovation is so important to resilience. While tried-and-tested techniques certainly have their place, and it’s worth noting that the Gap had tested the pop-up fulfillment center before, sometimes you simply have to take a breath, look at what you have, and quickly make a square peg fit in a round hole. Innovation leadership beforehand sets the stage for resilience when times get tough.

Single white flower.
Finding the right resources lets you overcome anything.

Building Resilience and Innovation Together

Of course, the best innovation leadership has the tools in place before the challenge arrives. When considering how to build resilience and innovation alongside each other, consider these points:

  • What are the general pain points you’re hoping to address with innovation?
  • What projects that you’re currently testing could be scaled up if the need was urgent?
  • How do your customers use your products, particularly customers outside your typical markets?
  • What are some of the challenges you’ve had to meet suddenly in the past, and how did you handle them? What about your competitors? Have they needed to overcome a sudden setback, and how did they do it?
  • About what possibilities is it reasonable to be worried? (A meteor strike on your server farm isn’t very likely, but a lightning strike may well occur.)
  • Where do you turn to get ideas when the need is urgent? Who steps up when you ask for ideas quickly? Who surprised you with thoughtful ideas?

There’s no way to anticipate every possible bit of bad news. Instead, you should design how your company approaches these issues, over the short and the long term, with both the forward motion and flexibility needed to meet them. Building innovative thinking into your organization now isn’t just strong leadership, but an investment for a rainy day. To learn more, contact us!

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