COVID-19 has changed the face of innovation

COVID-19 has brought us all face-to-face with what really matters both in our private and business lives. Such was the speed and impact of the pandemic when it struck that it brutally exposed many flaws in our traditional attitudes and processes. For a start, it became blindingly obvious that very few businesses, large or small, had adequate plans in place for handling disruption on such a massive scale.

However, it will be how we responded to the crisis that will finally separate us and help shape the future. A willingness to adapt at speed to radically changed circumstances has already produced some shining examples of true innovation and enterprise - we have seen car manufacturers retool their production lines to make life-saving respirators for hospitals. Clothes and textile manufacturers have turned their factories over to producing vital PPE for nurses, doctors and carers. Chemical companies have switched to producing hand and surface sanitisers……and the list goes on.

A recent article published by Forbes magazine pointed out that innovation itself is heading in a different direction thanks to COVD-19. Corporations that once thought only in terms of profit margins are now focused on resilience and corporate survival. When it comes to handling something as profoundly disruptive as a pandemic, inertia becomes the biggest threat.

If you listen to the management consultants, HR could become more important than product development. The evidence is that, when COVID-19 first struck last year, business managers just sent their workforce home. With no systems in place to continue the business function whilst keeping their people safe, they didn’t know what else to do. As we now know, technology has come to the rescue so that many day-to-day functions are able to continue as normal offsite. Some communications channels have even improved.

Advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence and digital transformation are now a central part of any business debate. Because of COVID, leaders are now much more receptive to anything that will cut costs, improve efficiency, reduce the carbon footprint of the company while, at the same time, ensure the safety of the workforce.

Quality is also likely to become more important than ever; speed remains a factor, but customers are now more concerned with who offers the best product or service available – rather than who was first on the market.

It is widely predicted that, because of COVID-19, the face of innovation in future will be broader and more human. The global business environment has undergone radical and permanent change in less than a year.