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Innovating During Crisis: Time for Extraordinary Action

Innovating During Crisis: Time for Extraordinary Action

When things go very wrong, pressures mount, and before we know it, our thinking is burdened with anxiety and a search for security. Too easily, we only see problems and danger. This is perfectly understandable. It is not easy to move forward during such times.

by Peter Bryant, Professor of Entrepreneurship at IE Business School.

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But many of us have skills and tools we can already draw on. In particular, we know how to innovate, especially under conditions of high risk and uncertainty. Using methods like Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile Development, we know how to explore problems and needs, find the pressing jobs to be done, experiment with prototype solutions, pivot and look for work arounds.

From this perspective, problems and needs have always been opportunities to innovate; although, we are still wise to monitor and measure the risks. You don’t have to be reckless. But right now, we confront extreme and urgent needs, in life and business. The important point is that instead of freezing up, or turning away, innovators embrace problems and challenges. Granted, the chances of success may be low, but at least the chance is there.

Moving forward

Therefore, try to bring your innovation skills to the forefront. Make them center stage. We cannot wait for certainty, and time is against us. In fact, in an uncertain world, certainty is often rare. If you wait to be certain, it could be a long wait. And then, too late. Therefore, try to adopt an active orientation, looking for ways to move forward and seize the moment.

But wait a minute, you might say, accepting the risks sounds fine, but shouldn’t we first analyze and measure them? Yes, that is often true. Thinking like an innovator does not mean you cannot and should not think systematically and carefully. Creating a new brand, entering a new market, or launching a new product, all call for analytical thinking and rigorous planning. The challenge is to think analytically when you can and must, while at the same time, allowing for rapid exploration and experimentation.

A combination of different thinking styles

In fact, it is the combination of these different thinking styles that best explains the power of an innovative mindset, and why we need it at this moment. Innovators embrace risks and problems, while thinking how to manage the risks and solve the problems. Innovative thinking hopes for change, takes systematic bets, and accepts the possibility of failure. Overall, innovative thinking looks forward to learning and adapting.

These are great skills for innovators at any time. We should exploit them today. Collectively, our families, businesses and communities, face an enormous set of challenges and problems. We need to draw on all available resources and capabilities. Now is a time for extraordinary innovation.