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Moving Past the “New Normal”: How Companies Can Innovate in a Time of Change

The COVID-19 crisis caused an unprecedented and quick evolution of the way companies do business. This “new normal” means that companies have pivoted and changed how everything from the products they manufacture to where and how their employees can work in order to remain successful in uncertain times. Some companies are looking past the disruption to uncover opportunities to make improvements or adopt changes that had been previously tabled.

Who’s Innovating Amidst COVID-19?

The most basic example is one you’ve likely heard of in the news: changing your product or service offerings. Companies that once made libations are now producing sanitizer. Automotive retailers are conducting sales over Zoom and providing high-touch delivery services. Industrial manufacturers quickly updated their product lines to assemble respirators. Even the National Institutes of Health are supporting an initiative to fund and speed up the development of advanced diagnostic technologies. In each of these examples, all of these companies are now able to quickly adapt to future changes, and are thus more resilient to challenges that may arise.

Another innovation, one that serves the greater good, is the focus on genuine customer service during this time. From insurance providers to technology companies, many businesses have simplified their policies to truly benefit their customers. Return policies are extended, discounts are available, and more lines of communication are open. Flexibility and concern are now widespread, and it is hard to imagine consumers accepting a reversal to previous service levels.  

How Can You Innovate?

Communicate the Crucial Need for Adaptability

The most effective innovation occurs when there is buy-in at all levels. To get leadership and employees engaged, communicate the crucial need for adaptability. Tie it into your mission - make it clear why it is important to be willing to be flexible and change the way things have always been done. Perhaps this is a time to revisit suggestions on improving a certain process or procedure, one that could potentially make your customers’ lives easier or your own business more efficient.

Gather Insight from a Variety of Perspectives 

Never assume you know what your customers, clients, or employees want or need. Otherwise, you risk spending significant resources on solutions that truly do not help. Instead, gather insight from a variety of perspectives. Request input from your customers or clients via a survey about what they are looking for and address their pain points. Then, get feedback from your employees regarding new solutions or simply vetting possibilities from leadership to ensure they are realistic.

Take Calculated Risks with Small Experimentation

Many companies hold off on innovation because they are risk-averse and worry about sinking money into new ideas that do not work out. Alleviate this concern by taking calculated risks by trying out ideas on a smaller scale as an experiment. Track the outcomes, and then analyze the results to see whether it is a worthwhile endeavor and if there are areas for improvement before rolling out on a larger scale.

Don’t Wait for Perfection

Although companies should be prudent with their resources and make deliberate decisions, avoid waiting until everything seems perfect before trying out new creative ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic made it very clear that quick turnarounds and implementation is possible and can still have positive results, so do not hold your company back with unnecessarily arduous testing or approval processes.

Focus on Your Customers

COVID-19 has forced many people to think of the well-being of others in unprecedented ways. Think about how you can support your customers, whether through simplified or revamped service and support policies or through new offerings that could make their lives easier (or even safer). Keep in mind that customers still understand when a brand is trying to capitalize on a situation for profit, so make sure your efforts are genuine.

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