Innovation Will Lead Companies Out of the Downturn

Innovation Will Lead Companies Out of the Downturn

A number of companies across industries have done a fine job of protecting profits during the COVID pandemic even as they experienced revenue pressure. We are not as bullish as those who assume that 2021 will see revenue growth rates for most companies return to pre-pandemic levels. Innovation – a difficult phenomenon to master – will ultimately drive revenue growth.

What is innovation? Some examples of what innovation is not:

  • Innovation does not happen by decree;
  • Locking a group of engineers, product managers, software architects and sales people in a room won’t necessarily result in innovation;
  • Adding an unwanted feature to an existing product does not qualify as innovation;
  • Innovation is not something to be delegated.

Innovation does not have to be a big, unwieldy thing that is difficult to tame. Small innovations can be powerful, especially in the aggregate. For example:

  • Posting product demos to a secure, provisioned server where approved customers may provide feedback, thereby shortening the feedback loop;
  • Applying robust analytics and measurement to customer feedback and product usage (machine learning on the back-end to detect usage patterns) to inform product and service iterations;
  • Frequent and regular employee surveys – formal and informal – to capture and share “best ideas and practices” across the organization. Online capture and dissemination can be a force multiplier as information delivery is immediate and at scale;
  • Video communication by leaders: tools such as YouTube, Zoom and Brightcove make it easy to host internal meetings, conferences, customer communications and the like. Live chats with live comments provide immediate feedback.

These examples carry a negligible hard dollar cost (the 2nd bullet is the exception), and are primarily a function of building the discipline. Not dissimilar to adhering to an exercise routine.