Three steps to innovation in times of crisis

Kairos Futures surveys demonstrate that an ever-increasing number of organizations have found a new normal in the heart of an acute crisis and that many of those organizations gaze towards a future where everything has come back to normal and the wheels of the economy circulate once again. How should you think in order to arise stronger from this crisis and pinpoint your innovations now, as well as in the long run? Both of these aspects are important, and at the same time, they define the most crucial obstacle facing innovation for most organizations, namely: Finding a way to deliver the appropriate solution in an effective method here and now, but at the same time coping with producing the right services and products in the long run.

To gaze further than crisis management is not a straightforward objective when there is defective liquidity, a rise in staff sick leave, and when the wares don’t arrive in time. But for those that cope with the current situation and possess the appropriate recourses, the benefit of planning for the future is seldom more significant than in times of crisis. Whether it is about small-scale innovations through creative expressions in recruitment campaigns or adjustments in offers and menus, or large-scale introductions of new services and product lines, the time must be ripe, and the accuracy must be rigorous. For those that cope, we recommend the following three steps for innovation in times of crisis: 

1. Find the insights
The initial starting point for organizations in a scenario such as the current one is to learn about the new consumer behaviors and needs that arise as a result of the crisis. At the same time, you have to possess, with some exceptions for some behaviors and preconditions, an awareness that most people long for normality and will by all means possible, strive for a return to their ordinary every-day lives. The role of this phase is to identify immediate needs that have arisen and act accordingly and, at the same time, obtain an understanding of the more long-term consequences that might emanate. More people than ever before are leaving digital footprints as a result of working from home and the digital footprints left behind contain many hints if you use the right tools.

2. Launch swiftly
The second aspect is about offering what people desire at the moment, swiftly, and in the right way. At present, there is already a plentitude of examples of innovation within service-development and communications. From Nikes Training Club app, to the codewords used by French pharmacies for women who suffer from domestic violence. Another field that has witnessed severe diversification during recent years has been the utilization rate of recourses such as housing, offices, and vehicles, by innovatively converging need with recourse. This has in turn enabled swift innovation in times such as these, when hotel rooms, airport employees, rental cars and product lines are utilized in new ways. In order to succeed with this, swiftness and modest investment is crucial. Since unfortunately, there is an encompassing risk that your service is only partial to your business and societal need in a few weeks.

3. Think about the distant future
The third aspect is all about coping with thinking about the distant future in order to come more durable from the crisis in a few years, since the scale of the current crisis and others like it will by all certainty leave severe traces. Both individuals and organizations long for the return to normality, but some of the preconditions alongside customer expectations will be different. Besides surviving the crisis with somewhat stable liquidity, all innovative actors need to assess how society will be after the crisis, and how that will affect the demand. 

Other value propositions become important
In the long run, it is all about understanding what alterations will occur as a result of the Corona crisis in 2020. If a high salary, conferences abroad, frequent after-work, and free breakfast has allured programmers for years, perhaps occupational safety and the feeling of contributing to society might replace those in 2021? If the logistic method of operations in your line of business at present is just-in-time and Lean, more emphasis on warehousing of critical recourses might be a demand in your public procurements in the future.

If fixed monthly rental-fees has been the standard for your offices in decades, they might be empty for a long time ahead. What then is a successful procedure that can fill our urban areas with persisting offers? By analyzing subtle consumer habits as well as radical crisis-constituting alterations and building your new innovative offers on those insights, there is a chance that you will pinpoint all those launches when the market turns!

Best of luck! 

Glancing towards the horizon and the future has always been a Kairos Future specialty. As of this moment, alterations are occurring swiftly and as a result a diverging future is just around the corner. We would like to explore this in partnership with you by using our methods for scenario-planning, digital analysis tools and future-driven innovation that we possess.

Katarina Stetler is Director of Innovation & Consumer Insights at Kairos Future. Katarina has a Ph.D. in Innovation Management.