The Pandemic Teachings On Innovation

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To say the pandemic caused some disarray is an understatement. When I started to follow the number of cases in March, it was only in the thousands. Fast forward 4 months now, it is almost 15 millions and counting. My heart goes to all people that are mourning the passing of their loved ones and some that are still recovering.

Using Kolb’s experiential learning theory, humans learn best through experience. The first stage is “concrete experience” – having or doing an experience. Pandemic of COVID-19 was such a novel experience. Many pledged on social media they will not forget that the “global world” was literally forced to shut down.

Although the pandemic still an on going and eventful, there are already many evidences to demonstrate successes to break the chain and manoeuvre into opening back the economy. As an advocate of innovation literacy, I want to call out the teachings from learning organization perspective.

What are the pandemic teachings on innovation? Here’s the main three:

For innovation to thrive, it has to go on offense, not defense

The pandemic cases weren’t linear, they were exponential. Just like in football match, when your opponent is very aggressive, going on offense is your best defense. Prior the pandemic, majority innovation programs are on defense. Just because it is trendy, we-need-to-have-one-too. The reasons to do it was unclear because the “opponent” isn’t clear too.

The opponent has to be clear, who are we fighting against?

The entire world was single minded that COVID-19 “is” the opponent. Nothing else. We put in a lot of efforts to study the behaviours of this virus. Know what it looks like, study patterns, what it does, where it stays and how to possibly suspend it. We know now that this virus needs a host – that’s an important feature of this opponent. Without a host, it will die.

Equally, what do you innovate for? What are the problems you wanted to focus on? Is the problem recognized by the users or not? For example, a bank that goes into some fintech solution must realized a full-fledged bank equals almost 30 fintechs. That means 30 different customer pain points.

Everyone counts, believe in this together!

Everyone in every country put all the resources possible to fight this – together. The global health organization such as WHO constantly giving out press conference and latest update. The government heads and specialists take charge to calm down the people and instate new policies to have soft landing as much as possible.

Similarly, innovation in an organization needs to be in everyone’s mind; not just the innovation team, R&D team, CEO’s office, IT department etc. Constant reminder and engagement need to present so the right messages sink in and trickle down. It takes a huge effort, of course!

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