'This crisis offers the perfect storm for innovation'

20 August 2020 Consultancy.com.au

The coronavirus lock-down looks to have shunted the already sluggish global economy into recession – placing many firms in a fight for their very survival. However, as with any crisis, Venturetec Managing Partner Trey Zagante told Consultancy.org that he believes this could also present companies with an opportunity to innovate and win customers from their competitors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged consultants into a period of major industrial change. The job has traditionally required extensive travel and face-to-face support of clients, but under the global lock-down this has proven impossible. Fortunately, consultants are well acquainted with rapid transformation work, and according to Venturetec Managing Partner Trey Zagante, his firm has leveraged this legacy to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal.’

Speaking to Consultancy.org, he explained that Venturetec – a consulting firm specialised in corporate innovation, strategic design and venture building – has been able to use its lower number of engagements to focus on improving its operations ahead of a recovery. As a result of increased capacity due to lower level of client engagements, the firm has accelerated its own product development and innovation efforts that have been in its backlog – something the firm’s clients could learn from.

Zagante explained that after leaders dealt with the immediate health and financial security of their people and their business – and of their clients and supply chain – now is the right time for organisations to take a step back and understand what the current state is, what innovation-related investments they’ve made and assess their past performance and project returns.

This crisis offers the perfect storm for innovation

“Nobody knows what a post-Covid-19 world would look like,” Zagante stated. “With all those unknowns, organisations should think about what role innovation play in their organisation and whether they have a coherent innovation strategy and roadmap. The smart thing to do is to reflect on and review whether their current plan is the right strategy going forward and refresh if necessary.”

Highlighting some key internal opportunities for corporates and large organisations, Zagante pointed to adopting agile ways of working across an organisation; adopting technology and enablement tools – something he suggested the Covid-19 situation has been “a huge proof of concept for”; and redesigning the organisation and existing operational model. Externally, meanwhile, as customers have been forced to adopt new technologies, opportunities to engage with customers via new platforms have boomed.

Challenges

When asked what the biggest innovation-related challenges faced by corporates and other large organisations were in this new environment, Zagante noted one in particular which is already very familiar. Despite the “huge proof of concept” for new digital ways of working coming from the current crisis, he suggested there are still many organisations where innovation is “seen as a ‘nice-to-have’”, and these are the ones “pausing innovation once there’s a downturn.”

At the same time, a number of other factors are at play. According to the consultant, it depends largely on the industry, and market position, a company occupies.

“Each different industry has different standards and is impacted differently,” he expanded. “Organisations that are more digital ready, with digital capabilities, are able to adapt a lot quicker. Those that are still on legacy systems without the right level of digital enablement struggle and have had to re-focus their efforts on becoming digitally-ready [rather than innovation].”

Aside from the firms which need to learn to walk before they can run, however, firms could use the current lull in activity to chart a course for becoming “future-ready.” This includes gaining the skills which innovation leaders and practitioners will need in a post-Covid-19 world; skills such as evidence-based decision making, or being able to draw up a clear innovation roadmap to plan for the future.

Zagante argued, “A crisis like this has really allowed leaders to focus on having a more prudent and more rigorous resource allocation strategy. Using real evidence to base our decisions on, that’s absolutely key in any resource-constrained environment… Being able to clearly define what the innovation objectives are [is also important].”

“Organisations should constantly be on the search for new opportunities to create new value.”
–  Trey Zagante, Managing Partner of Venturetec

“In the past 10 years I’ve been in this space, I’ve seen a lot of wastage and innovation theatre, this situation is really going to force leaders to focus on outcomes, to focus on creating real value, and to delivering benefit to the organisation – and the way to do this is by having a coherent innovation strategy and approach.”

In terms of being truly future-ready, meanwhile, Zagante spelled out a series of key attributes for creating such an organisation. He stated they need to be adaptable; agile, people-centric; and innovative.

He concluded, “One lesson from evolution; it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change… Organisations which adopt agile ways of working across the organisation are therefore able to see themselves through this crisis.”

“For example, it’s important to think about how we can better take care of our staff and enable our staff to do what they need to do… Constantly searching for and being able to execute new opportunities to create new value – new processes and better ways of working, new products, services, customer experiences and so on.”


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