Innovators have faced unprecedented challenges in the past month, as COVID-19 grew into a global pandemic. Suddenly, teams have become completely remote and, in some cases, may be dealing with budget scrutiny or strategic pivots. This March, our coverage has focused on providing your team with resources to navigate this uncertain period.
Focus on the Core Business
During economic shifts, innovation teams may have to refocus. While transformational projects may have been important last quarter, oftentimes, teams are asked to demonstrate more immediate value during periods of economic contraction. Nancy Tennant, former Chief Innovation Officer at Whirlpool, shares how her team survived the 2008 recession.
“When we hit the recession, we moved the innovation teams over to cost[-saving] projects. It wasn’t where our heart was, but that was the most pressing problem,” she says. “There are no hills worth dying on in innovation, and we should be like water. Wherever the organization needs us, we need to move there, and help, and be relevant.”
Find Ways to Prototype at Home
Even though innovators may be temporarily separated from their labs and makerspaces, Christian Ponce from LogMeIn says that they should not put prototyping on pause. While the materials may be low-tech, visual representations can help teams communicate their ideas. Ponce says, “I can build a model with Legos that helps you understand what I’m trying to get across, and then you might be able to take it from there and code it, because that’s your skillset.”
Ponce is the Director of Operational Transformation at LogMeIn, a company that provides collaboration and connectivity software. Get seven more tips from Ponce.
Practice Employee Empathy
With stock markets gyrating and layoffs in some industries already happening, employees are likely worried over uncertainty — both personal and work-related. Blade Kotelly, a senior lecturer at MIT, suggests that managers may have to shift their tactics to provide employees with the right support. “These moments can be incredible motivators and catalysts for a certain kind of person, but they can be paralyzing for others,” he writes. “Recognizing that people will behave differently in this situation will enable you to react quickly to support them in the right way, and let you challenge some members of your team in ways you never thought was possible before.”
Test New Tools with Your Team
While most teams are distributed, innovators need to find new tools that allow them to collaborate, run brainstorming sessions, get feedback from partners, and move projects forward. This month, we asked our network to share some of the tools they’re using to innovate through this period of remote work. See 12 tools that support real-time interaction.
At times, innovation teams may see themselves as a team of commandos working outside of the organization’s walls, and insulated from day-to-day needs. According to Russell Rogers, teams should shift that mindset and focus on serving other parts of the business.
“This [is] an opportunity to practice and promote the mindset of being service-oriented. Extend that service mindset and show that we can quickly flow to where the needs are,” says Rogers, former vice president of Global Innovations at Blue Shield of California. “Now it’s our opportunity to say, ‘Hey, how can we help the core business? Where are your pain points? We’re an adaptable group, and we can fill a lot of gaps that you may need filled.’”