• Innovation strategy will be crucial to overcoming the post-COVID pandemic challenges faced by global economies.
  • The pandemic has highlighted inequalities and potential solutions, giving innovative teams the chances to turn challenges into opportunities as we reach a new social equilibrium.
  • Organizations will need to adapt a mentality of “the only way forward is through” to make the most of these opportunities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, it’s left behind a string of challenges in its wake. Developing a strong innovation strategy will be fundamental to building a stronger business and doing so quickly. A focus on these challenges as opportunities will be important, as they may be difficult for some of your team to view as anything other than drawbacks.

The Challenges Left Behind By COVID-19

To understand the opportunities, let’s first look at the challenges.

First and foremost, we cannot forget that millions have died in the pandemic, with millions more left injured and possibly permanently disabled. Even more are left grieving the loss of people close to them. Those lucky enough not to be touched will still be struggling with the trauma long after we’ve found new equilibrium. The effects of this much loss can’t be solved, but they should be remembered as we move forward.

Second, the pandemic has caused permanent changes to every aspect of society that are still unfolding across all spectrums and are often interconnected. For example, there’s been much discussion of “the future of the office,” yet very little discussion of how this might affect labor forces as ecommerce companies continue to increase wages and hospitality workers find less work in city centers.

Third, all these changes have interacted with and will continue to interact with each other in unexpected ways. If the pandemic has brought anything to the fore, it’s that we are all connected in ways we don’t realize.

Lastly, it needs to be understood that while not all changes wrought by the pandemic will be permanent, enough of them will be that returning to pre-pandemic approaches isn’t an option. It’s not even desirable for many people for various reasons. Every team needs to embrace the mentality that the only way forward (in their innovation strategy) is through.

Working together.

Arriving At a New Equilibrium, Step by Step

Recovering from the pandemic and building a new economy will take rapid steps.

Step 1: Choosing Goals

Assess where you are now, and where you want to be within a set timeframe. Five years is probably the maximum you can plan for, but don’t hesitate to set broader goals based on your situation.

The shorter the timeframe, the more achievable a goal should be. If you’re looking to reduce your company’s carbon emissions to zero in five years, for example, you should have a realistic view of what your emissions are and the steps you’ve taken to reach your goal. Strategies like cutting back on commutes with remote work and developing composting programs are good ways to start.

Also, put an idea pipeline in place. Using an idea management platform can help you learn from your team and different departments, and usher ideas through development and implementation.

Step 2: Selecting Metrics and Soliciting Ideas

To stick with the carbon reduction plan, pick metrics that make sense for your company.  A delivery firm, for example, might track how many vehicles in its fleet have been replaced with low- or no-emission powertrain vehicles, while a consulting company might track how many miles or hours have been spent commuting.

Metrics should be specific, clear, easy to track, and tied to company goals. Tie specific numbers to each goal and communicate them to your stakeholders. Pair these items with ways for the team to collaborate on ideas and approaches.

Tie ideas to goals as they come in. Base them on feasibility, resource needs, and timeframes.

Looking at information on a tablet.

Step 3: Developing and Refining Ideas

Once ideas come in, start collecting feedback across the organization and begin applying ideas to goals. Transparency is crucial as it helps people refine their ideas going forward and shows everyone they’re being heard.

As ideas are refined, some will drop out or be set aside. Take a moment to celebrate what you’ve learned and note how you can use it to take other ideas and your strategy forward.

Step 4: Implementation

Some ideas should be launched within set timeframes. These could be simple approaches or big ideas that come together quickly. Regardless, take a moment to celebrate when an idea is launched and single out the team that contributed.

Step 5: Assessing and Recalibrating at Key Milestones

As you progress, set aside time to check your metrics, ideas, and the pace you’re on at milestones such as six months or a year. Look at what you’ve achieved and learned, and how this affects your strategy going forward.

Sometimes, only minor retooling will be needed. Don’t be surprised if wind up changing major portions of your strategy.

Looking at charts and graphs.

Dealing With the Unexpected

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t guess what might be coming down the road. Don’t try to anticipate major changes. Instead, build flexibility into your plan.

There will be moments when something unexpected arrives. It may even change your whole innovation strategy. Make room for these surprises, positive or negative.

Also, remember the most important lesson: even in the face of a completely unexpected event, people were resilient, intelligent, and stepped to the fore to solve problems that weren’t planned for. Thus, innovation often comes to the fore in times of need.

To learn how IdeaScale can help you develop and implement your innovation strategy, request a demo.