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Back in April, John D. Stoll’s piece in the Wall Street Journal featured companies that have quickly ramped up innovation in response to the COVID crisis. Here’s the real cause behind this innovation spike and why it will not continue after the crisis is over.
Why it happened: These unprecedented pivots towards agility and productivity are the result of focusing on “a” most important audience with “a” most important problem to solve. It is a “less means more” mentality. Unfortunately, traditional thinking holds that “more means more”. More audiences, more consumer segments, more target customer groups, more products, more product extensions, more brands, more sub-brands, and so on, mean more money. Most shareholders are traditional thinkers and will demand the familiarity of the type of progress that organizations provided to them pre-COVID through traditionally organized hierarchies. And why shouldn’t they? That approach seemed to have paid off quite well in the stock market pre-COVID.
Why it won’t last: Once the economy staggers back to its feet, and the hangover of this crisis is forgotten, shareholders and these “innovative” companies will devolve back to being guided by the dollar instead of disruption. Innovation that is meaningful, agile and nimble will revert back to safe, predictable, continuous improvement. Will this be true of your organization?
How it might continue: This crisis has allowed organizations the opportunity to focus and organize their resources and decision making rights around a specific audience to serve. They identified the most important audience to serve now (frontline healthcare providers) and their most important needs and pains to solve (lack of protective gear, not enough hospital beds, not enough ventilators). These organizations became more innovative because they organized around a single audience. In other words, they left behind their traditional organizational thinking which held that they had be organized by functional area (marketing, operations, product development, design, etc.), or by a product line.
IN THE END, one of the biggest opportunities your organization has in this crisis is to scrutinized how it is currently organized, and to determine whether reorganizing its resources in an audience-centric fashion is perhaps a better way to go.