Pandemic: Triggering Innovation... again!

The current emotional, economic, health and political environment triggered by the emergence of COVID-19 as our most recent "Clear and Present Danger" has everyone on edge, not least of which are small business. While government policies are having a strong influence on our economies, consumer sentiment is also driving a slowing of economic outcomes, growth primary amongst these. No, this is not our first rodeo, and you're going to need to recognise three things to survive, and thrive.

Thing 1: We've been here before and got back from the brink

If we reach back to the pages of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, we can draw startling parallels. Not just in the medical situation or the disastrous impacts the pandemic is wreaking on the very fabric of global society, but in the headlines of newspapers and the sentiment of writings of the day. We have been here before - so what did we learn?

A newspaper clipping from 1919 detailing the impact of Spanish flu
Source: The Sun, 6th February 1919.

Newspapers of the day could have been written just this week (but for the lovely language of the day). Shopkeepers telling of stores without custom, shop assistants making masks, mail order and other forms of delivery increasing and hotels not serving drinks, and overall a downturn of around 25% on normal trade.

The advantage we have here in 2020, is 99 years of history. 99 of the most prosperous, exciting, innovative years that the human race had seen to date. In fact we moved immediately from a state of global catastrophe, into the Roaring 20's - a time where America, if not the world, experienced a period of great individual wealth which led to the birth of the Consumer Culture.

At the same time 1918 saw a turning point in the use of emerging technology - in particular the Telephone. In 1918 students were conntecting to teachers via the telephone for the first time, and hospitals were urging people to order their goods from shops instead of attending in person. Ironically this led to the phone network becoming overloaded, but the pandemic had broken the habits that has slowed the uptake of telephones, leading their use to be common place. This is an almost direct analog ot what we care currently experiencing with video calling.

All is not lost, old habits are being broken and realising this opens the door to opportunity.

Thing 2: The road is long, with many a winding turn...

When the chips are down the road ahead is not straight anymore - there are twists and turns we need to ride, and sometimes junctions. These may be obvious intersections where we must choose a path. Still others lie concealed on the side of the road, visible only to the most observant, the most "in tune" with their environment. Either way opportunity awaits our decisions - our arrival at a destination that was unknown when we embarked on our journey.

These are the heady roads of innovation...

… and they will bring change to the way we do things, who we do them with or indeed the very nature of what we do. What you choose to do today will profoundly change your business one way or the other. Most of us have already undergone change in the way we do things, but is your business doing the same things it was doing before COVID hit?

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. - Dorothy, from "The Wizard of Oz"

The world will not return magically to how it was before COVID-19. Nor will your business. It could be the way you engage with your customers; it could be the very nature of the things your customers now need. Never in recent history has it been more important to be intimately in tune with your customers and their problem. And if you thought you knew what they were before COVID, don't just believe they are the same now.

You're going to have to work hard to understand what has changed in your customers lives, and what value your products and services now represent to them. You may find that your products need to be repositioned, altered to suit different ways your customer wants to engage, or that they need to pivot altogether to suit the changed environment.

Thing 3: You can go it alone, but the journey goes faster and more enjoyably with the right partners

Embarking on innovation when you have an established business can be quite daunting. After all, your business has probably been successfully doing the same thing for a while now, and you hadn't been expecting such a dramatic twist of fate. How do you start doing something differently without loosing what you have already built?

The right partners are the key here. You may not have the right teams to change your products in they way customers need. You might not have the right people to explore how your customer's lives have changed. You probably do have the right ideas about what might be possible, and you definitely have the experts in what your business does and how it gets done.

But can you afford to have them step away from what they're doing at the moment without loosing current business?

This is where partners come into the scene. Partners who can help you explore your customer and product landscape, and partners who can deliver new capability while your business continues to hum.

uSpark Here to help you create new business value

uSpark exists to support businesses who are looking to find new ways to thrive in a post COVID world. We have the expertise to help you gain insight into your customers new problems, teams to help experiment with new ideas and ultimately the capability to bring new software technology solutions to market.

If you would like to create new business value from your ideas without disrupting yourself, contact us today and let's start finding those hidden paths to success together.


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