How Innovation Leaders Can Respond to COVID

Discover why intrapreneurship is important & how senior leaders can embrace innovation in tough times. Foster a culture of innovation with expert advice from Studio Zao.

As the ongoing pandemic presents organisations with unprecedented levels of uncertainty and growing speculation, Heads of Transformation must step up to the plate and implement actionable innovation strategies to keep the ship sailing.

Now, more than ever is the time for organisations to leverage internal talent and embrace experimentation to find high-impact solutions to new challenges. Whether it’s adapting to a furloughed workforce or realigning your focus to target new customer segments, the disrupted marketplace requires innovative solutions. Fostering intrapreneurship (learn more here) and the Lean Startup methodology is vital to deliver agile strategies and generate a constraint stream of new learnings.

Join us as we explore four ways Heads of Transformation can drive their organisation to thrive amidst uncertainty and embrace remote innovation strategies to build a brighter tomorrow.

Engage with Customers NOW

COVID-19 has flipped the entire world of business on its head. As painful as it is to admit, whatever you thought you knew about your customers in a pre-COVID world, doesn’t stand to this day.

Recent events will have completely changed the way your customers think, act and listen. They have different pain points, different demands, and entirely different priorities.

With this in mind, time is of the essence if you want to stay ahead of the competition and reshape your business to satisfy a constantly evolving marketplace. Heads of Transformation must rally the troops to collect real-time insights and identify new customer segments before it’s too late. If your organisation is still working on the assumption that your customers want the same things today as they did two months ago, you might be digging your own grave.

Innovation leaders must assemble teams to brainstorm strategies to target new customer segments and align with customer pain points. Whether it’s tracking their behaviours, identifying market trends, or finding solutions to neutralise their fears, innovation is vital to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

For example, recent research by Wine Intelligence explores the changing attitudes and spending habits associated with wine drinking over the coming months. While the wine industry is yet to feel the full force of the coronavirus, experts predict a significant consumer shift that will require marketing teams to evaluate their customer segments in a post-COVID world.

In times of uncertainty, corporations should think of Heads of Transformation as the eyes and ears of their organisation. It is their responsibility to identify the market shift and deliver innovative products/services that satisfy changing customer demands.

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Embrace Flexibility & the New Digital Transformation

As the outbreak of coronavirus continues to disrupt the rhythm of ‘normal’ working life, it is paramount that innovation leaders step up to the plate and embrace flexible solutions to maintain forward momentum.

COVID has opened the doors to the next digital revolution with a significant rise in the number of companies embracing new processes, digital tools, and virtual collaboration platforms.

The new world of work presents Heads of Transformation with an opportunity to increase the efficiency of their organisation and adopt agile strategies that support rapid innovation. Unlocking the full potential of digital tools is vital to help your corporation differentiate from competitors and maintain a unique advantage.

Crucially, innovation leaders should encourage experimentation and welcome new tools or processes with open arms. Adopting lean experimentation is critical to get market validation for a business idea and launch new products with minimum upfront investment or risk.

Instead of playing it safe, lean experimentation encourages intrapreneurs to push the boundaries and test off-the-wall ideas to differentiate their organisation from rivals. Market validation involves selecting the riskiest assumption, defining a hypothesis, testing it with a minimum viable product (MVP), and then interpreting the results to systematically reduce the risk of launching a new product.

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Invest in Your People & Uncover Intrapreneurial Talent

People are the beating heart of every organisation. When the going gets tough, you need strong support from your employees to maintain forward momentum and overcome complex challenges.

Recent events require Heads of Transformation to dig deep and invest in building ambitious teams who are empowered to implement innovative strategies. In times of need, leveraging internal talent and promoting intrapreneurship is vital to seize new opportunities and take advantage of disruptive trends.

Whether it’s pivoting a brick and mortar retail business to eCommerce, developing remote collaboration tools or creating enhanced digital experiences for your customers, harnessing the creativity of your internal teams can open doors to new avenues for growth.

It’s important for Heads of Transformation to understand the psychological traits of entrepreneurs to identify the key individuals who can embrace corporate innovation to find agile solutions to new challenges.

Rather than viewing 2020 as a write-off, true leaders will use this time to upskill and re-tool their existing team to improve capabilities and help them seize new opportunities in 2021.

Intrapreneurs

Create Inspiring Working Environments for Intrapreneurs

Once you’ve identified the right processes, tools and people to support your organisation, Heads of Transformation are responsible for creating safe and inspiring work environments to embed corporate entrepreneurs into your organisation.

For example, digital growth consultancy, Web Profits, is supporting cross-team collaboration throughout COVID-19 by coordinating a ‘buddy system’.

Just as you would bump into someone in the office and spark up an interesting conversation, their buddy system puts two random colleagues into a remote video call and encourages them to chat freely about anything and everything. Facilitating these safe spaces for employees to interact is vital to building cohesive and engaged teams.

Another important step to encourage collaboration and support intrapreneurs is to rethink the way you structure your innovation teams. 

Ring-fencing intrapreneurs from the rest of your organisation help to minimise dependencies on bureaucratic processes and encourage independent decision-making. Innovation teams thrive in environments where they have autonomy over their own systems and freedom to implement siloed strategies.

Riding the waves of change and leading your team into the future can prove a true watershed moment and help Heads of Transformation prove their indispensable role in the organisation.

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Strategic Change

$9 trillion of estimated reduction in global GDP over the next 20 months. (Source: IMF)

The global landscape is changing rapidly due to the COVID-19 outbreak, organisations are increasingly focusing on internal business transformation so that they can better adapt to this uncertainty, and thrive in it.

Want to learn more about how intrapreneurs can help your organisation thrive in the face of adversity?

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