The work of innovation is a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean it will never yielded any results along the way. But wait, before I get there, let’s define what innovation is?
My favorite and I think appropriate definition of today’s innovation come from Clayton Christensen, “Innovation is a change in labor, capital, materials and information into products and services of greater value.”
There are a lot of companies focusing their innovation that enable them to be more nimble during today’s unprecedented situation. They are able to switch their business model so quickly and transform their supply chain to help them stay in the game.
Take for example Abang Udin, he sells kuih nearby my area. It normal days before the MCO he will open his stalls and showcase all the kuih he got from his suppliers (some he made himself with his wife). During the MCO, he was unable to operate. Did he lose income? Yes, for a while. He stopped for about 1 week, he calibrated behind closed doors his supply chain and he is back in business. He now offer delivery service (with small fee) to deliver kuih and nasi lemak.
Prior to this, Abang Udin never had any delivery service because he doesn’t need to. All customers go this stall every morning. They buy from him and paid him cash. When other passersby saw his stall with a lot people, they will go in as well. It used to be crowded in front of his stall. Now it was not there anymore.
If I were to take the concept of Innovation Focus and map what Abang Udin did, you will get a better idea. Let’s take a look.
Prior to MCO, most companies innovation focus is on Stability, including Abang Udin’s. Just ensure the business stable and float. Make some products and services, make some profits and it goes on like that. There’s little thinking or planning about doing other things or other channels. It doesn’t have to be because there’s little need and there’s some cost to spend. Why bother?
During the MCO, many businesses caught unaware, including Abang Udin’s. He stopped for a while and came out with a plan to change his business model. This time around his innovation focus is on Adversity. During this situation, he had to make drastic change to ensure his business stayed on. He had to do more work and get paid slightly more (often the same or less because customers no longer able to see his crowded stall). But he still make some products, created a new service and make some money for his family.
Now the MCO is partially lifted, he plans to maintain the delivery service because he noticed the customers behaviour change. Just like any business that has been given a glimpse of the future, his innovation focus now is on Survivability. He needs to ensure the roadside stall and delivery can go hand in hand even it means he will have to fork out some expenses to maintain those services.
But, a thought come in his mind. What if he could make this permanently with more effective routing service and efficient production? How can he build this new channel as part of his new offering? What does he need to do? What does he need to let go? What does he need to acquire? Now his innovation focus is on Sustainability. Ultimately he will continue his innovation focus is on Humanity – where his reason for being is to serve the communities around him.
Don’t you worry about Abang Udin, he has now found a new joy in growing his “new” business. But your business probably not as smallish as Abang Udin. Your business also not a 1,000x greater than his. Your business is unique and your customers are far different.
You need to ask, where is your innovation focus now?