Innovation During a Recession
Innovation is bringing creative ideas to life. It occurs in the organizational context when individuals and teams work to spark new product development, to implement new technology and even to transform the organization. Innovation is always linked to performance and growth through incremental improvements in efficiency, productivity, quality and services. On the other hand, it is also associated with radical improvement like inventions, new products and radical changes in the business model. It is a balance of incremental improvements and radical innovations that keep the company competitive in a changing world.
We are on the brink of important change in the world— and it is economic in nature. We have seen massive job cuts, company bankruptcies, budget reductions, etc. We are in a period of profit-focused cost cutting. Innovation may be a low priority for many companies in this period of recession but I think it is a big mistake. Innovation ought to be a crucial element in a firm’s recession strategy. It will allow them to do more with less and to generate profit by exploiting existing resources.
Two kinds of Innovation that are especially valuable in a recession:
Internal and External Collaboration
Greater internal collaboration– between departments and business units, as well as external collaboration– with customers and suppliers, are essential if companies are to stay healthy during the recession. For example, internal collaboration could result to a Cross Selling strategy that could increase sales to the existing captured market while lowering cost of selling. Collaboration can be a channel for transfer of best practices between operating units. Internal Collaboration can also result to inter-business-unit product innovation by creating new products and services from existing knowledge, technologies, products and brands. External collaboration, specifically with key entities of your supply chain network — from suppliers to customer, is vital to staying in business during a recession. The big challenge to firms is to reduce cost while maintaining service levels. Businesses need to have open communication with suppliers and customers alike and ensure a more effective and efficient supply chain.
It is also important for firms to use new technology and cheaper options for collaboration. Leveraging Web 2.0 in the enterprise can be one option. Let me give you a clearer example. It is critical for companies to understand how customers reassess priorities, reallocate funds, switch brands and redefine value of products and services. Web 2.0 platforms can be both a source of information and a channel to facilitate this kind of collaboration in a cost effective way.
Leveraging Shared Services
If it’s all about cost reduction and economies of scale, it’s probably the best time to implement Shared Services. In these demanding times, companies are challenging themselves to discover business processes and business models that will open undiscovered synergies. Shared Services could be the answer to companies keenly looking for convergence and streamlining of an organization’s functions.
Shared Services has to ensure that they deliver the services required of them as effectively and efficiently as possible. In a recession, this convergence enables the appreciation of economies of scale within the function and can enable multi-function collaboration where there is the potential to create more synergies. A word of caution though, a Shared Services implementation involves a large scale cultural and process transformation; it must come with a well-planned organizational transformation and change management strategy.
In a nutshell
Shared Services has been around for years and companies have always strived to collaborate — internally and externally. I think the emphasis this time should be precision, timing, and bringing the best ideas forward. Forward looking and innovation-focused companies are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I strongly believe that this is the best time for innovation, for breakthrough value and for paradigm shifts. This is the best time to position your company ahead of the pack when the economy regains momentum again.