During COVID-19, we have seen air pollution get reduced, water ways clean up and fishes returning to many areas like Venice.
Suddenly, we see big companies like financial institutions, property developers who were making record profits from their activity will quickly see the impact of business, unable to sustain from the high rents and finance fees. There is a big impact on operations as lockdown continues and bureaucracy in the bigger companies and too much regulations can prevent fast actions to be taken, resulting in situations where they can see the problem, but cannot react fast enough even with planned solutions.
These big companies have (Business Continuity Plan) BCP, but some failed as the untested BCP did not meet the current challenges, and the layers of bureaucracy did not allow the company to move quick enough.
There is no doubt that a lot of these business activities generate a lot of pollution, and all the talks about the UNSDGs did not yield as much actions as what COVID-19 did to reduce pollution.
The fact is, we can stop climate change, but our current business model may be the problem.
The current way businesses pick innovation is by how much more profits it will generate, focusing on short-term gains and impact.
The ideas that look at long-term growth are often ignored and placed with low priority, and the resources allocated to sustainable projects are often very limited.
Many businesses know that the resources shouldn’t be consumed faster than they can be regenerated, and with busy business operations, they do not have the time and resources to come up with solutions.
With businesses slowing down due to COVID-19, perhaps it is time to relook at innovation programs. This can be done through incubation programmes, accelerator programmes and hackathons, or have their venture arm of the company invest in innovative solutions. With the technology today, all the programs mentioned can be done virtually as well, and it is a good time to do so with much less business distraction for the company to evolve stronger after COVID-19.
What do you need before you begin?
Before you can start on innovation, teams need to make sure that they build trust. Instead of doing anything on their own, the idea of partnership and collaboration is to allow multiple parties to come together and solve a problem. More parties allow different angles to attack the problem, but the basis of any collaboration is trust.
Innovation needs the buy-ins from the top and bottom. This means means people on top of the organisation need to understand, articulate and commit in equipping their team with the resources they need. The ones at the bottom need to believe that solution makes a difference.
Innovation cannot happen in an environment with too much rules and regulations. With the right framework in place, having a competent team you can trust, are committed and allowing more freedom to test ideas and solutions, all you need to do is to provide ample resource to allow them to continue.
No better time than now
In view of the current situation, many companies can see that they may have additional resource due to lack of sales, and can start sustainable innovation within their companies. With the spare capacity, this would be a time for employees to upgrade, or better, train on other skills. In return, these new skills can be applied on existing products and services, finding a more sustainable solution and plotting a sustainable roadmap for the future.
For example, a manufacturing facility may find that they have less orders and can focus on repairs and upgrades. This may include solar panels and rainwater harvesting. Or it could also include designs and modifications to workflow which may require the moving and relocation of large machines which can affect the whole facility. Sitting down with the staff to understand the problems faced during the periods with high capacity and enhancing the workflow can create a more efficient company once the situation gets better.
Instead of worrying that there will be no business and companies may incur losses, I would encourage companies to use their resource to work on community projects. There is a lot to be done and if the market is bad, competing and chasing the remaining clients may sometimes end up wasting more resources.
Remember, the economy may be bad, they may be a lockdown, but life still goes on, and some industries are benefiting from the situation. There is still business and some purchase power, but companies and people are more prudent with their spending.
There will be a lot of problems to be solved, and your company may hold some of the resource to solve it. If you do not wish to take on the challenge and spend more resources you do not have to solve these community problems, collaborate and partner with your vendors and other customers. Crowdsource the solution.
At the end of the day, solving community problems with other companies can allow you to build empathy and access other resources. These new connections can help your business in future endeavours.