By Orfeuo Lionor

We didn’t see it coming but it has already had a huge impact on the world economy. COVID-19 has challenged existing economic models and structures we took for granted. COVID-19 forced us to rethink the status quo. Now, what does that mean for SME’s and corporations?

As the cliché saying goes: “Remember, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.”

Most companies pre-COVID, performed quite well with, what I would call a “legacy business model”. Selling the same products and services for years or even decades and slowly releasing incrementally better products or services to their customers. Through an increase in the pace of adoption of new technology and new market entrants in the form of (faster moving) startups, companies have already have had to scratch their heads. I predict that COVID-19’s economic consequences will force organisations large and small, to revisit existing business models. But more so, there will be a renewed interest in launching new, more customer centric and flexible business models to market. Last but not least, in times of unpredictability, the appetite for assuming more risk, might well increase.

COVID-19’s economic consequences will force organisations large and small, to revisit existing business models.

Open innovation offers us part of the answer. Open innovation is a move by companies away from internal R&D centric secrecy and silo mentality and a move towards openly exploring innovation opportunities in collaboration with partners. In short, a move from keeping your playing cards to yourself, to actively inviting partners to play cards with your organisation.

One of the biggest mistakes made by corporations when it comes to innovation is, short-termism represented by investing in tech for the sake of tech. I have visited several innovation hubs filled to the brim with the latest technology money can buy. Unfortunately, tech for the sake of tech is not the answer. Technology is a means to an end. Talent is the real driving power behind corporate innovation. With talent I don’t just mean current “high potentials” and future candidates. I also mean the untapped innovation potential of all employees by offering staff an assisted path to self-development, through participation in innovative projects.

The Lean Startup methodology teaches us to thoroughly validate new ideas and concepts by actively involving “customers” and their feedback. This requires a certain mindset which might not always be prevalent in most corporations. Those profiles which tend to excel, are often what we call “contrarian profiles”. Those people who actively challenge the status quo within an organisation and sometimes end up being referred to as the troublemakers. Knowing this, corporation would benefit from revising their HR practices. Picture existing recruitment and internal promotion mechanisms as two fishing nets. These two fishing nets rarely capture “contrarian profiles”. That leads to the question: how can we change or update our fishing nets and become a more attractive and innovative company?