What will the world look like post-COVID - and how do we continue to innovate?
A Storm Has Struck
The global COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world’s economy like a typhoon slamming into a seaport. Docks and structures are wrecked. Some boats are damaged but still afloat. Other boats sank in the storm. And some boats just vanished, blown away, never to be seen again.
The pandemic has literally affected every human life on Earth and will continue to do so for some time to come. And if you are a business owner, entrepreneur, or innovator, you’re facing enormous uncertainty about what happens next.
But one thing is clear—you are going to have to pivot!
A Different Kind of Normal
No one really knows what the world or the economy will look like as we come out of this COVID storm. But one thing should be clear...
It won’t be the same as before!
Our definition of ‘normal’ will be changed as a result of the pandemic. Day by day, we are transitioning to a different kind of normal. Different in ways that will forever alter assumptions that our businesses and economic structures have been built upon for years.
So, if you are hanging on, waiting for the storm to pass and for things to get back to the old version of ‘normal,’ you may find yourself cruising into a very bad situation.
Innovating in a Post-COVID World
Every crisis brings an opportunity to those who are keenly watching for it, and the COVID pandemic is no exception. And if we are smart, we will use this time as an opportunity to clean up and reshape our businesses to succeed in the different normal that will emerge over the next few months. We can use this time to sharpen our focus and to do some spring cleaning in our businesses.
I believe that the next five years could be a time of amazing innovation!
That is, assuming that we approach it properly. Like almost everything else, this new version normal will require us to think in new ways. Therefore, I’d like for you to consider three ways to approach innovation differently in the Post-COVID world:
#1 Opportunities will abound – The pandemic has uncovered an enormous number of opportunities to change, remake, and improve the structures our lives were previously built upon. The opportunities can be found in diverse areas such as healthcare delivery, telemedicine, supply chains, digital bandwidth, business virtualization, and a thousand other areas. The list is actually endless. And in each case, the new solutions may look different than they would have pre-COVID. Be on the lookout for these new, post-COVID opportunities.
#2 Focus on problems – Now is the time to focus your business or innovation strategy on the problems we are surrounded by. Are you a talented mobile app designer? Then apply yourself to solving issues in telemedicine or rural drug distribution rather than building one more Tik-Tok clone. Are you a restaurateur? Perhaps you can focus on developing the new dining concept that will make it safe and economical for customers to enjoy a wonderful meal in a post-COVID world. Are you an engineer? Perhaps you could develop a new seating approach that will allow airlines to profitably and safely restart international air travel.
You get the idea. Look for problems that you can solve. Then, solve them. There will come a time when we can once again turn our creativity to meeting our desires instead of solving our problems. But that time is in the future. For now, focus on the problems.
#3 Need less – We are moving into a period of economic austerity. Innovation and entrepreneurship will have to change in this different normal in order to succeed. Innovators will need to devise leaner approaches where they need less from outside investors in order to succeed.
Traditional assumptions about access to capital are now obsolete, at least for the time being. In our post-COVID world, access to venture capital and other forms of outside funding will be harder to get than ever before. Therefore, proceed as if they aren’t available to you.
To succeed in this difficult environment, innovators and entrepreneurs will need to structure their projects and processes to be leaner and more focused. That will mean things like:
– Smaller teams doing more work cross-functionally
– Leveraging partnering opportunities to share and spread costs
– More focus on the definition and validation of customer needs prior to prototype builds, leading to fewer, more precise pivots
– Smaller, more focused MVPs (minimum viable products) with correspondingly smaller development budgets
– Minimizing and delaying outside investments until product viability can be proven
But, there is good news, even in a world of restrained capital like we are entering into. The good news is that there will always be investors willing to invest in projects that solve real problems with a solid economic outcome. Keep that in mind as you design your startup or new product launch to succeed in this new, different kind of normal.
As the sun rises on our post-COVID world, we will need more and better innovation than ever before. To succeed in this new environment, innovators and entrepreneurs will need to combine leaner and more economical innovation processes with a keen focus on solving the problems of our new normal. The winners will be rewarded!
I write for small business owners and startup entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world with their new products and services. But before anyone can change the world, they have to get someone to buy their product. My personal mission is to help innovators win. I do that by helping them succeed in getting to market. How can we work together?