Highlights from May on Pivoting — and Planning for a Reopening

By Lilly Milman |  June 2, 2020

While the world continues to navigate an unstable economy and an uncertain future, many innovation teams have had all hands on deck in order to address gaps in the supply chain, improve remote work, and create new and necessary products. The road to a new normal may be long and winding, but we’re here to help along the way. This month, our team doubled down on our virtual offerings, and we held our first all-day online gathering, focused on innovation in the nonprofit sector. 

We’ve gathered the best pieces of recent advice from our online coverage to help you keep innovating.

1. Make Sure Your Remote Team is on the Same Page

“Every manager [has to] do a work-from-home team launch. These are critical team launches, since they set the course of the team in this particular time and space. It gives the team a shared agreement among members of how to work together most effectively,” says Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School professor. 

As we head into June, Neeley advises that teams “relaunch” their remote work programs. During this time, leaders can check in with employees about their work situations. Managers can then see what needs to be adjusted to improve an employee’s time working from home. 

Neeley also offers tips for leveling up your remote work operation, and avoiding common mistakes like videoconference fatigue. Read the full interview to find out how to make remote work more productive.  

2. Leverage Existing Resources to Fill Gaps in the Supply Chain 

The food manufacturer Hain Celestial Group has been selling hand sanitizer in Canada for years, but the increased demand for the product in the US inspired the R&D team to figure out how to bring it down to the states. This required collaboration across facilities — sometimes across countries — to bring the new product to market faster than ever. Read the article to find out how they did it, and how they’re keeping innovation on the front burners during the crisis.

Hain Celestial isn’t the only manufacturer stepping up. Carhartt, a privately-held apparel company headquartered in Michigan, shifted production to protective masks and medical gowns to help healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. In an episode of our weekly web show One Quick Thing, Director of Global Product Innovation Colleen Hau explains how their company pivoted to make masks during the pandemic.

3. Uncertainty Creates Opportunity for Innovation

To better understand what’s happening in corporate innovation and R&D right now, we fielded a survey from April 27 to May 4, 2020. We heard from 112 respondents, 71 percent of them in organizations with more than 1,000 employees, and used this data to create our State of Innovation research report. 

We found that teams are facing significant changes to innovation priorities, including providing an increased amount of support to the core business. While some innovators have been subject to layoffs and furloughs, innovation-related hiring freezes and budget cuts were more common. As the graph above shows, some resources are shifting to support the core business, and away from building emerging or adjacent businesses — while resources dedicated to creating transformational new growth business have remained almost unchanged.

Some organizations are looking at the crisis as an opportunity to build for the future: “We are well positioned to go on the offense. Uncertainty creates opportunity for innovation,” one respondent in the financial services industry told us. To learn more, download the full report and watch the overview video. 

4. Explore How Delivery and Service Experiences Need to Evolve

Few companies have experienced a greater surge of customer interest this spring than Peloton Interactive, the Manhattan-based maker of Internet-linked exercise bikes and treadmills. While the company has become known for its white glove delivery service, social distancing guidelines posed challenges when setting up bikes in homes. Peloton responded with threshold delivery, where teams assemble the bikes and leave them on your doorstep. Read the full interview to learn how Peloton has “re-balanced…innovation priorities to be more short-term product-, experience-, and service-focused,” and why they plan on exiting the pandemic in an even stronger position than before.

5. Prepare To Eventually Reopen with New Precautions in Place

This month, we held our very first all-day virtual event — a digital conference for innovators at nonprofits. In addition to a series of scheduled talks, networking breakout sessions, and live polls and trivia, we also hosted a fireside chat with Ted Molter, Chief Marketing Officer of San Diego Zoo Global, in the weeks leading up to the event. 

While the San Diego Zoo has been busy creating virtual content in recent months, Molter also discussed how the zoo is planning for its reopening. “The zoo is already planning to make some back-of-house operations, like the janitorial services, much more visible in order to show guests that the facility is clean,” he says — a common theme amongst businesses that rely on foot traffic. Watch the replay to learn more about how the nonprofit is navigating the unprecedented closures of its attractions.