8 Lessons in Innovation from 2020

For innovators and entrepreneurs across the world, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. The global economy came to a halt. Overnight, remote working and virtual businesses became the new normal. But even in this crisis, there were outstanding examples of business innovation. Companies pivoted amidst the most serious disruption of the last century and reported growth. Even as the World Trade Organization’s May 2019 forecast said global GDP would shrink between 13 and 32 percent in 2020, an outlier like Zoom rode on the boom in remote working technology to add $37 billion in market capitalisation, making it among the 20 most valuable U.S. technology companies. Zoom’s market cap today outperforms IBM.

Such stories of growth amidst the contraction of the global economy are more than just examples of good luck. These are in fact case studies in business innovation. Let us look at eight lessons in innovation from the business successes that emerged during the pandemic.

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Empower your people

Corporate innovators such as Google have always put employee innovation at the heart of their organisation’s culture. At Google, employees have traditionally devoted at least 20 percent of their time to side projects, resulting in big ideas like Gmail and Google Maps, just to name a few. But the pandemic put innovation in sharp focus across industries, like never before. Companies like Microsoft and Deloitte now announced tools, which would help employees innovate better. Acknowledging this shift, Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist Dr Frederik G. Pferdt said, “Everyone wanted to innovate before the pandemic, but now everyone needs to innovate.” Clearly, innovation was no longer a matter of choice for organisations.

Communicate. Collaborate. Co-operate.

More than at any time in the past, the pandemic also showed us the importance of communication. Businesses innovated in how leaders spoke to their stakeholders more than ever before. They communicated more often and authentically. For the first time, the needle also shifted from competition to business collaboration. Even among competitors! Nowhere was this more visible than in the Burger King advertisement, which encouraged customers to buy from its traditional rival McDonald’s. “Getting a Whopper is always best, ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing,” signed off the advertisement.

Understand the power of data

As governments around the world tracked the number of COVID-19 positive cases, deaths, and recoveries around the world, individual and community data proved to be a precious commodity. Predictive analytics showed itself to be crucial in our fight against COVID. We saw its impact first-hand, when predictive healthcare startup cogni.Care, incubated at T-Hub, combined Deep AI with patient data to build a complete picture of users’ health. As more companies acknowledged the power of data, ANZ’s State of BI & Analytics Report 2020 now revealed 67% of companies surveyed found BI and analytics to be crucial to business operations, as compared to before the pandemic.

Invest wisely

Plan meticulously. Expect change.

The pandemic once again showed the need the need for business continuity planning, change management and risk mitigation. Across the world, when the lockdown started, business continuity plans were put to test. But even here, the limits to such measures were exposed, as all plans had to be tweaked for a complete global shutdown, which the world had never witnessed before.

Shape the future. Don’t follow it.

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/globalisation-covid19-gdp-drop-2008-financial-crisis

[2] https://www.distilnfo.com/itadvisory/2020/09/04/zoom-video-communications-shares-surge-by-41-adding-37-billion-in-market-cap/

[3] https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/airbnb-valuation-surges-past-100-billion-in-biggest-us-ipo-of-2020-6214821.html

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