Adversity as a driving force for innovation

The Mornington Library in Australia has closed however one local bookshop, Farrells is offering a temporary local home delivery service. Many gin distilleries have stopped producing gin and are now making hand sanitiser. YouTube has reduced streaming quality in the EU and UK to avert internet gridlock. In China, cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan redeployed more than 100 beauty advisors from stores forced to close (many in Wuhan) to become online influencers. Using digital tools, such as WeChat to engage customers virtually and drive online sales; Lin Qingxuan in Wuhan achieved a growth in sales of 200% compared to the prior year’s sales.

Innovation occurs in response to a wide array of forces including the natural evolution of technology, social behaviour and economic incentives. However, there is no doubt that innovation to overcome obstacles has, and always will, contribute to the evolution of lifestyle and business as we know it.

Necessity is the mother of invention

This quote, taken from the Greek philosopher’s best-known work, Republic, encourages society towards creative endeavours to solve problems.

For many, the natural response to adversity is to ‘play it safe’ and not try anything new or unknown. But right now we are in uncharted waters and there are no natural responses. Nobody knows how to navigate through a global pandemic. 

No one knows the best course of action to take when countries close their borders and governments direct citizens to refrain from social activities and to maintain a ‘social distance’ from each other.

There is no ‘playing it safe’ for many in the tourism and travel sectors; or for those in the live entertainment or event management industries.  For these industries and many bricks and mortar stores ‘business as usual’ no longer exists. 

Without advocating reckless investment that will put at risk what is not already at risk, perhaps now is the time to think like an entrepreneur and take a few chances.

If you have lost, or are likely to lose your business or your job, could this be the once in a lifetime opportunity for you to think of innovative ways to hold on until this is over?

Innovation doesn’t have to be as grand as developing the iPhone.  It doesn’t have to generate millions or change the world. Perhaps it could be as small as finding a way to help people feel less alone, more engaged and generate a bit of fun.

It occurred to me as I watched The Great Pottery Throw Down that competitions are interactive and fun.  Perhaps some creative innovators could imagine an online competition with the prize being a gift card or product from your retail store that isn’t likely to be sold in a time of social distancing?

This is new for all of us and the uncertainty of how long this will last, and no one can predict with certainty what impact it will have on each of us as individuals and on our communities. 

There is very little about this situation that we can control except our behaviour. We can control how to respond as individuals and how we relate to each other. 

We can decide to be kind.

None of us knows when this will be over, however, we can be sure that it will end. And when it does, make sure that you can look back at your responses with pride. Proud of your courage to innovate in the face of adversity, and proud the compassion you showed to others.

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