You will have heard the phrase coined by Greek Philosopher Plato – ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. Or in other words, when the need for something becomes essential, we are forced to find ways of achieving it.
As history shows, rapid change and advancement are almost always linked to a catalyst of necessity, be that a World War or the global financial crisis. So, as Covid-19 has swept across the world and forced us to retreat to the safety of our bubbles, the necessity for rapid change has risen again.
It is during these global events, that rock our economy and our patterns of life, that new tech innovations are adopted en masse. This rise in communal necessity also invariably drives a wave of increased funding from governments and investors, enabling these innovations to be brought to market at an accelerated pace. Most recently, the global recessions of 2001 and 2008 saw technical disruption across multiple sectors, including entertainment, transport, travelling, and banking.
The innovations we will see due to Covid-19 will be different, yet will follow the same rules. And while innovation takes many forms – from a product that leads to market disruption, rapid execution of a service, business model innovation or changes to our ways of working – necessity will be the driving force behind the success of this new wave of innovation.
But how new are they really?
Our experience leading digital projects over the past ten years has shown time and time again that great tech solutions take years, or if you’re lucky, many months, to create and launch. What we know is that the significant innovations of recent times were already in the pipeline when the urgent need arose. And it was the necessity for them that made their adoption relevant and unquestionable.
So what should you be doing right now to respond to the current crisis?
According to Mosas Ma – the co-author of Agile Innovation and partner at FutureLab Consulting & Ventures – the most relevant type of innovation right now “may not be the perfect idea, but rapidly executed, it’s the one that saves your bacon…emergency innovation.”
‘Emergency Innovation’ is the quick adoption of solutions that allow your business to respond, or in the case of Covid-19, continue to operate in a time of significant change. For this, you need to look to existing or emerging digital solutions, which offer the opportunity to rapidly overhaul your service offering and open up new avenues of communication. We’ve already seen that businesses built digital-first, or those traditional businesses who have invested in digital adoption, have been more rapidly able to respond to the unprecedented changes created by Covid-19.
You can read more about the changes in consumer behaviour here – ‘Guiding your brand through the emotional and behavioural impacts of COVID-19’.
Opportunities and trends that are emerging from Covid-19:
Below are just a few of the trends that are emerging as we adjust to a new way of living. It’s important to consider if any of your services or products align with these themes, or if they could.
- Greater access to APIs (data made publicly available) for tech projects that can be used for social good.
- The rapid shift to working for home and the adoption of new technologies that allow for better remote communication between colleagues and clients.
- A rise in online shopping, contactless delivery, and click and collect.
- The adoption of digital consults across health care to reduce the person to person contact and ultimately improve service delivery.
- The revival of social media for the dissemination of information and social connection, reversing the downward trend of these platforms.
- The evolution of entertainment and events as restrictions on large gatherings impact our access to live events, festivals and conferences.
- With global economies at a standstill, the opportunity to rebuild with a focus on the future health and sustainability of our planet.
- A resurgence in support for local brands and products, and the need to diversify supply chains away from China to avoid future disruption.
Here are some of the tech innovations that have piqued our interest so far:
- Quick access to public APIs has helped developers build websites that show everything from peak times at supermarkets, to clusters of Covid-19 cases. This data is helping us all navigate these unusual times with a little more confidence.
- South Korea drove rapid testing of over 200,000 of its citizens. They then used smartphones to tag the movement of the infected, alerting the non-infected of those movements via real-time updates. Admittedly, there are some privacy concerns with this one.
- Voice assistants, Siri and Alexa, have been updated to provide symptom-based guidance. Now, when users ask Siri a question like “How do I know whether I have Coronavirus?”, Siri initiates a new conversation tree to determine the user’s current symptoms.
- CNN reported that medical teams utilised robots to care for the first person diagnosed with the virus in the US. The robot was used to take vitals and communicate with the medical team outside of the isolation area. This prevented the virus from being transmitted to the medical staff.
- And closer to home, Kiwi company Service Foods, have pivoted their business to respond to our changing needs as a nation. For 35 years they have provided wholesale produce to our restaurants, hotels and caterers, but with most of these businesses closed their new initiative, Service Foods Home, is set to deliver restaurant-quality ingredients at wholesale prices to our doors.
So what can you do now to ensure your business is ready for future waves of innovation?
- Look to previous global events, analyse the impacts and review case studies from companies who innovated well during that time.
- Set aside a budget for R&D. Staying ready means you never have to get ready.
- Ensure you have a multi-faceted team – “In times of innovation, product people must lead” – Nick Law, SXSW 2019. Use this team to develop a customer experience map to identify the gaps, what’s needed and the opportunities.
- To start, think about creating easy to churn out ‘bread and butter’ products or service lines to secure your bottom line, and then innovate around them.
- Fail fast. Focus on the minimum viable product (MVP) and launch to market quickly. Be prepared to fail, listen, modify and try again.
- Launch online. It’s cost-effective, and you can utilise existing technology where millions have already been spent to refine the platform and experience – i.e. Shopify stores, Snapchat and Instagram M-Commerce.
- Build a culture of curiosity across all levels of your business. You can read more about the importance of it here – ‘Why curiosity is the antidote to today’s uncertain times‘.
- Look for public and private funding opportunities, because when the money moves, inevitably everything else does too.
The most important lesson here is while necessity is undoubtedly the mother of invention, it’s hard to predict precisely when it’s going to hit. So, to be prepared you need to build a culture of innovation and curiosity into the fabric of your business. Because the only real constant in the world is change – the difference during a crisis like Covid-19 is simply the speed that it happens.
As Executive Producer, Kat manages the Digital Production Team at YoungShand. She is responsible for the delivery of engaging online experiences for our clients. Kat has spent the last fourteen years crafting solutions and driving digital forward across creative, not-for-profit, education and commercial sectors, picking up various awards along the way.
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