The COVID-19 outbreak tossed many assumptions out the window and created new ones.
A misconception we come across rather often is that now is a time of crisis, and not the time to embrace new technologies.
We hear statements like “work with what you have” or “don’t try onboarding new technologies.” The reasons behind this state of mind are often related to budget considerations and the unpredictable nature of today’s market. However, in past crises, the companies that continued innovating ended up out strong. Microsoft and Apple developed iconic solutions during the 1975 recession, and tech giants like WhatsApp, Dropbox, and Kickstarter were all founded during a financial crisis.
Our experience in working with both corporations and startups shows that COVID is no different. We see with many of our partners that challenges actually represent opportunities to think outside the box and implement ideas that were left in the back burner. For example, as we’re implementing an AI solution with one of our biggest logistics partners, we heard from several of the employees that “we’ve been asking for this for years”.
According to Tadiran’s Head of Innovation, Yarden Mamrud: “Now more than ever, it's important to continue and promote the different innovative initiatives, despite all of the challenges we're facing. We've learned that challenges are not necessarily a bad thing and could be disruptive in a productive way.”
Growing Pains: Unexpected Growth
According to McKinsey, businesses and consumers have leaped five years forward in digital adoption. Also, more than half of startups in a wide range of verticals report that the pandemic had a positive impact or no impact. We can clearly see that the assumptions mentioned earlier aren’t necessarily true.
The new reality, which changed people’s work and mobility habits, caused some products to become almost irrelevant and turned others into a necessity. Construction companies and transportation providers are working around the clock to answer growing market demand while other solutions are unavailable. For example, Tadiran, a Quantum Hub partner and a leading air conditioning manufacturer, is experiencing higher demand for air conditioning products due to consumers’ new routine that makes them spend more time indoors.
With some company employees in quarantine and the rest working in smaller shifts to minimize risk for contagion, businesses face a considerable challenge to meet this growing demand. While some organizations will focus on these pains and will not have any attention left for innovation, others are looking at the current challenges as the exact timing to disrupt how things are usually done.
Recalculating Route: Harnessing Technology to Keep up With New Market Demands
Today’s market wants to leverage more of existing products and also demands new solutions to answer emerging needs.
One of the changes brought in by COVID-19 is the shift in consumers’ shopping habits to online channels, and virtual marketplaces are growing at the expense of physical ones, with 36% of retailers reporting a shift in their marketplace strategy. Shipping demands are also shifting due to social distancing and lockdowns, and a 17% increase in B2C shipping requires supporting technologies for careful contactless handling. This is where automated solutions can come into play. For example, UPS in Israel was able to use Smart Deliveries route planning and optimization system to improve efficiency and increased stops per driver from 40 stops per day to almost 75.
The automotive industry is one of the most influenced by the pandemic. A time of crisis is not a time to buy new cars, and so we see automotive brands recalculate their route and are using this time wisely, by accelerating not only in the implementation of technologies but in the development of new technologies. BMW accelerated the release of the company’s autonomous level-5 car, with the idea that Autonomous vehicles provide a much-needed solution for current emergencies.
Opportunity Knocks: Time for Open Innovation
Here are a few practical ways to ‘make lemonade’ in the COVID-19 era:
- Go back to the drawing board: Strategizing can be helpful at the moment. Both organizations experiencing growth and those operating in industries facing slower demand can take the opportunity to plan ahead their innovation journey. This is a rare chance to strategize and onboard new solutions that would usually require taking a step back. Inadequate strategy efforts resulted in only 6% of executives stating that they’re satisfied with how innovative solutions perform. Companies can now implement technologies in a more structured manner and thoroughly train their team.
- Utilize budgets wisely: Travel restrictions may have freed up some budget, and companies can utilize funds meant for specific marketing activities that became redundant. Under these new conditions, plans left on the back burner for what seems like forever can finally come to fruition. Take a fresh look at your roadmap and budget and use the resources you have to initiate projects that will help your organization reinvent itself and come out of this period a strong market leader.
- Connect & innovate: Whether to handle growing demand or overcome shortage in manpower, it’s always the right time for innovation. The pivots we’re witnessing prove that technology is always relevant, and finding the right solution to fit every organization is critical. To make it happen, corporates should take the opportunity to explore and better leverage the startup ecosystem. Our mission task of connecting industrial corporations worldwide with startups that can answer their needs is a central focal point, and we’re happy to see such positive results.
If you’re curious to learn more about open innovation and how to leverage it to create a significant impact on your organization, start by signing up for our newsletter. We’ll take it from there.