The Financial Express

The Covid lessons for businesses

Innovation for survival

Innovation for survival

Innovation is essential to business -- it always has been. The metrics by which business innovation is measured, however, have evolved in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Innovation is required not only to satisfy pent-up demand and unlock growth, but also to improve the social and environmental performance of businesses.
The pandemic has undeniably acted as a catalyst for change in the workplace. Businesses small and large have had to figure out how to work from anywhere, and one of the inadvertent results of this has been innovation. In a report commissioned by Lenovo entitled "Beyond Boundaries," researchers looked into the developing state of business innovation in the not-so-distant post-COVID future. Surveying over 300 senior decision makers in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and Asia Pacific, what the survey found proves, we have to start thinking of innovation differently. It provides a new and improved innovation framework that charts how businesses can support themselves and their employees in the next normal.
What this means is, it is not enough for companies to just pat themselves on the back for having successfully reaped the benefits of these unforeseen innovations. Companies must continue to build on what they have found for themselves, their employees and their customers. The study finds, in fact, that some leaders are struggling to embrace a bottom-up working environment. This is excusable to an extent: it is not easy to disrupt hierarchical cultures which employees might find stifling, but which is undoubtedly related to effective innovation. Employee feedback must inform the setting of new goals while keeping their needs and wants in mind. This is why, senior executives need to square up and face themselves first.
Yet, cultivating free and effective collaboration is just as important: Many senior leaders say they want to step back and let innovation flourish, but the experience of junior executives suggests otherwise. However, it is undeniable that business agility and improved innovation go hand-in-hand, and in the post-Covid world, we must consider the benefits-to-work culture of hybrid working. Even amid fears that the gains of the pandemic will be lost as firms transition back into the office or adopt hybrid models that balance on-site and remote working, the report found that working outside the confines of an office setting, unsurprisingly, created a space for greater creativity. In order to make the best of this creativity, businesses must encourage flexibility while striving to protect against burnout. When looking to the future in revolutionising hybrid working environments and improving corporate governance practices, businesses must continuously refer back to the lessons they have learned during the pandemic.
Encouraging diversity in the workplace is another essential step in ensuring sustainable innovation. Diversity and inclusion must be at the centre of any strong innovative drive. Companies must consider the importance of inclusion in gender, age, neurodiversity, physical ability and ethnicity. Yes, building diverse teams can be difficult and require resources of various types, but that is why it is important to carefully design processes, infrastructure and policies that support diversity. While innovation definitely relies on diversity, the ability to "fit the mold" does help if one wants to challenge the status quo.
Now more than ever, it is important for companies to remember their responsibility to the environment. Encouragingly, 42% of the executives surveyed in 'Beyond Boundaries' say that improving environmental sustainability should be counted as a strategic driver of innovation. The pandemic has forced us to look at the world freshly, to acknowledge anew the ways in which we are all connected to the environment and each other. It is important for companies to be able to translate practically that sense of interconnectivity.
A research also shows us how, despite some predictable pitfalls, leading companies around the world are striving to respond to challenges with the new tools and skills that Covid-19 has equipped them with. This can only be a good thing as we learn how to drive transformation in the new and the next normal. We are facing a new age of innovation and as always, only the fittest will survive.

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