How to use this crisis to innovate

Corona Lock-down thoughts…

We all knew that something has to change. We talked about it in our conferences, officially or at coffee break. We knew that we are hyper-connected, we knew about the downsides of industrial meat production, we knew about the health implications of air pollution.

But somehow it was unthinkable that we change our global operating system. We couldn’t imagine a world without business travel, without presence time, without globally distributed supply chain networks.

We couldn’t imagine for instance to moderate air travel by a few percent every year to moderate our carbon dioxide footprint. Now it is down by 90 %. Lufthansa parks the planes at the runway of Frankfurt International Airport.

Now we have it all. Travel restrictions, home office, disrupted supply chains, shut down of small and big businesses and even curfew in many industrial nations.

That’s a real disruption. The external circumstances changes radically and fast. We need to adapt.

In this situation there is a need for innovation. We need to come up with new solutions. The old strategies don’t work anymore.

There are at least two layers where we need to find new, innovative approaches.

1. The urgent, short term need.

We need to organise the daily operations under the current restrictions, from home office and with reduced staff. We need to protect the workers – and maybe we even need to prepare for a phase where our staff is not available, due to sickness or quarantine. 

Supply chains are broken, and we need to find creative solutions how to source essential raw materials.

Maybe the urge of today is to change production, as some chemical producers already did, who now provide sanitiser instead of consumer goods.

2. Seeking new opportunities

But at the second layer, we need to seek out for the opportunities. We need to think about the time after the virus. The world will not be the same. Maybe intercontinental travel stays restricted or becomes increasingly annoying with enforced quarantines or other measures. Maybe consumption patterns will change. Maybe we need to adapt to a recession.

We are amidst of a crisis. People feel anxious. People are afraid – rightfully. Beside the health threat there is a significant economical risk.

But as our busy, restless life – both corporate and private – was put into a forced break: We now have time to breath and to think.

This is the time for creation.

Everyone can ideate. When everything else fell off, there is creation that is left. It is said, that Isaac Newton worked out the principles of his ground breaking work in a sort of lock-down during a phase of „Black Death“.

It doesn’t take much to be creative. It needs a white sheet of paper and a pencil.

Pen down the most urgent frictions you have to solve for your resort. Pen down the things that were always painfully, annoyingly distracting you from excelling in your job.

  • What are the slow currents of mega-trends that will impact our businesses, no matter what changes short term?
  • How will the industry change in 10, 20 years from now, considering demographic shift, economical raise of Asia, global warming?
  • Who could be potential disruptors, not under the every-day RADAR of competition watch?
  • And especially for the chemical industry: What would it take to become really „circular“, really „sustainable“? How could we, the industry better lead this efforts to transform the material basis of our wealth generation?

Be creative! Think out of the box. What if the lock-down will be the new normal? What if we need to organise our business much more digital, much more remote, than it is now?

Since I decided to become a freelance consultant, I was already very lean and digital… working from home office, using on-line tools in my projects. But still, working with customers, was by default at the customer’s site.

But, how much of consulting service actually can be done on-line, remote? My last project – with an IT start-up – was done 100 % virtual: Email, Phone, Slack, on-line conferencing. It worked!

So, here is the challenge – how can you innovate your business and grow through this crisis? And how can I help you to innovate, without meeting you?