Crisis and innovation : how the COVID-19 crisis encourage innovation?

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By definition, innovation implies questioning the established order, the familiar that already exists. To innovate, one must break away from preconceived notions and preconceived ideas. This approach, subversive in essence, is infinitely virtuous. But it sometimes requires a catalyst, such as the collapse of a banking system (2008 crisis), or the arrival of an unprecedented health catastrophe.

The need to follow new practices

Once again, a new crisis has changed our relationship with the world and with others. This has had a direct impact on our consumption, once again.

Telemedicine and everyday services (like banking) have really taken off in 2020. As a result, other practices have developed, such as apéro-zooms, or online shopping…

In companies, traditional seminars have been replaced by webinars. To meet a boom in demand, the training sector has had to reinvent itself in record time. According to Pierre Courbebaisse, president of the Federation of Professional Training (FFP), the demand for online training has tripled with the arrival of the first containment.

On the managerial side, the year 2020 has resulted in many challenges. Among them, the need to learn to manage remotely, in a context of widespread telecommuting.

For recruiters too, the stakes are not quite the same as yesterday. If the soft skills of candidates were already important before the crisis, they are now particularly sought after by companies. Autonomy, proactivity, strong capacity to adapt, self-discipline… All these qualities are absolutely essential in our current work environment.

Crisis and loss of meaning

We have heard a lot about the quest for meaning, “bullshit jobs” and the essential in recent months. Because, by questioning the status quo, the crisis has given us all the opportunity to question the meaning of our work or our daily life, of our consumption, of our values.

This is a perfectly normal reflex in times of crisis, because it is precisely the nature of a crisis, as well as of innovation: to question the existing, the contradictions of a society, of an ideological model… It is our certainties that a crisis destroys, above all. And this is what allows us to start again on new bases, to be more intelligent.

COVID-19 crisis and innovation: multiple examples

As you can see, in the face of a crisis, innovation is necessary to survive. In the case of Covid-19, this idea has been demonstrated many times.

A strategic innovation

In order to adapt to the health crisis, some companies have decided to diversify their offer, by positioning themselves on products that have become indispensable. This is the case in the luxury sector, with Burberry and Louis Vuitton in particular, which now sell high-end protective masks and visors.

A managerial innovation

How can we go back to 2020 without mentioning the rise (albeit forced) of telecommuting? With the crisis, new managerial and HR practices have multiplied. In the space of a few days, many organizations have had to adapt and take on new tools, such as ATS. Their digital transformation has accelerated, allowing them to optimize their collective work.

Over the months, companies have also been given a new mission, especially the HR profession. The latter had to reassure employees in the face of the uncertainties raised by the health crisis. In this respect, some companies have rivaled each other in ingenuity.

Nespresso, for example, has set up a weekly internal newsletter to share with its employees the best practices to adopt in terms of telecommuting, health, etc. The company has also set up a FAQ to answer employees’ questions (short-time working, management of paid leave, impact on variable pay, etc.). In another style, Engie took advantage of the first lockdown to set up a school support system for children, intended to relieve parents.

In many respects, we can therefore associate covid-19 and innovation without too much risk.

Can we really invest in innovation in times of crisis?

That’s the problem. In times of crisis, the priority of companies is to manage the emergency, to limit costs… but not to innovate! Only a long-term vision allows to consider innovation as an absolute priority, even an emergency. However, in a turbulent context, we cannot always afford to look that far ahead.

Yet, according to a McKinsey study, companies that invest more during a crisis increase their chances of post-crisis success. The real secret to success could be finding the right balance between necessary investment and cost reduction.

In conclusion

By offering us the opportunity to step back and question what exists, crises allow us to reinvent ourselves. Faced with a huge, unavoidable problem, we can analyze what went wrong in our old system, look for solutions, and move beyond it.

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