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Has COVID-19 Killed Innovation?

I know it’s stating the obvious and we’re all really feeling it, COVID-19 is rapidly changing the way we do business, and in some instances if we can do business at all. The level of business interruptions, cancellations and restrictions on movement are seeing many businesses re-think their portfolio of work and long-term projections. Organisations are closing divisions, slashing large programs of work and placing many projects on hold for an uncertain period of time. This creates a large number of human resources that

Has COVID-19 Killed Innovation?

are partially underutilised or in the worst case, left with nothing to do. This underutilisation and uncertainty creates anxiety and fear, because whilst there’s a lot of speculation no one really knows when this will end, and when it does what the “new normal” may look like.

We are already starting to see a shift in the way employees are starting to behave. Fear, uncertainty and the disruption to their day to day life through social distancing, self-isolation and/or working from home indefinitely is creating downward shift in productivity. Add to this the uncertainty of maintaining employees when profitability is impacted by disrupted supply chains, contract frustration or organisations trimming their program of work to reduce costs. Couple this with consumer behaviour (or madness) of people hoarding supplies of toilet paper, dry goods and anything on the supermarket shelves, and we have an environment that impacts the psychological and mental well-being of all of our people.

Innovation will be a by-product of COVID-19

Dismissing innovation as a nice to have program of work during these crazy times can be a mistake. Innovation will not be a by-product of the Coronavirus pandemic, rather it can become a core problem program of work to support the engagement, motivation and continued occupation of staff in your organisation.  These Black Swan events have the power to change the trajectory of an organisation, particularly if a deep economic recession follows on from the pandemic of COVID-19. Times of deep economic recession have long-tail impacts on the culture of an organisation, potentially damaging to the future growth of an organisation once crisis is over and recovery begins. The mantra we need for our people is we are better together. We recognise the effort, time and commitment that staff have provided to the organisation - whether that is a short or long period of time. We’re all supporting the mission, not only of the organisation but for the connections, friendship and tribe that has been created inside your organisation.  Times of uncertainty and impending economic crisis often sees some members of the organisation working 6 to the know the ones those people in finance, Strategy, HR, Risk and everyone else who may be engaged in continual reforecasting and providing reports to the leadership team and the board. Then there are the other staff members who may have their work come to a grinding halt. We need to support everyone inside the organisation to ensure their emotional, psychological and mental wellbeing are looked after and this is one program that may be employed.

This is an opportunity to completely remove the theatre of innovation from your business and reduce the knowledge drain of your organisation that has the potential to walk out the door if there is nothing meaningful for them to do. Times are tough and most businesses will be hurting, and some haemorrhaging and struggling to stay afloat, but there is also an opportunity to stop and reset how we think about our market, our customers and our way of working.

In a post COVID-19 world, the businesses that capitialise on the changes and downtime of their human resources will be the ones that succeed through being ready for growth as soon as the economy turns around. The ones that don’t get this are likely to be disrupted or even worse not survive at all.

Even though the way we do business is rapidly changing in our current COVID-19 environment, there is a way through this. Over the coming days and weeks I will be taking you through a framework, step-by-step, that you can rapidly employ in your business to set you up on the path for future growth, success and opportunity in a world beyond COVID-19.

Ally Muller is the author of the soon to be released book Corporate Innervation: Unlocking the Genius Inside Your Organisation



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