To Freeze or to Continue?
Anyone who expected organizations to stop at the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis is probably disappointed. Rarely has innovation and switching gears been done faster: From drive-in farmers, to restaurants preparing for services with social distancing, to hairdressers who cut online and sell sets with professional equipment – people and companies have responded to the crisis with some intense creativity and responsibility.
Apparently, the old business wisdom that a burning platform is the best inspiration for change and innovation has been proved right. At the same time, no one can turn a blind eye to the particular challenges we now face. The question is, what will the future of organizations look like with the current long-term disruptions in ways of working. Nobody knows exactly where we’re headed and if and when we can go back to a “normal” situation again.
In this context, how do you ensure your organization continues to move forward and improve at the employee, team and organizational levels? How can you respond to the challenges of today without being overconsumed by thoughts about the future alone and losing sight of the here and now?
Rhythm and space
As with many things, it’s better to delve into a subject more often briefly than do an extensive deep-dive only once. You can provide rhythm and space by:
- taking fifteen minutes at each team meeting to walk through improvements / renew ideas and check on their status
- planning weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings in which you shape new ideas, see if you are on the right track and adjust according to the big picture.
Ideas are not the problem but implementation, however, can be more difficult. So, pick two processes and stick to what you and the team can agree upon.
- A way to choose the right ideas: Think about what is important and how you want the entire pallet to look. Think, for example, of a mix of low-hanging fruit and radical, far-away innovations. Determining space (time) and budget is also important in this step.
- A process to ensure realization: This includes a lot of testing and trying, in every step. Encourage team members to present the team’s concepts to family and friends; send test products to loyal customers; actually sell your product’s prototype and ask for feedback on it.
House in order
Innovation can also come through when you arrange all those things that you normally don’t get around to. Just as you tidy up the kitchen cupboards at home and do a major cleaning, there may now be time to finally have a well-searchable archive on your website. Or, to elevate your brochure and other sales material to the next level.
Especially today, many talented people have more time on their hands. Think of the circle of freelancers or other professionals with whom you work or would like to work with. Perhaps you can work together on new products or services and share the future benefits with each other. By agreeing on a distribution plan now (e.g. based on time invested, or based on the importance of the role someone plays), everyone can get started and work on future benefits, while nobody has to invest directly any money right away.