20.07.2020 : Stephen Westwood

Breaking loose new thinking in post-pandemic NZ

Techweek’s theme is Connecting our Future and the timing is ideal for post-COVID New Zealand as there is a collective reset taking place that creates a unique space to be more open and receptive to experimentation and solving problems.

Survive or thrive

The problems organisations face in July 2020 are suddenly very different from the problems they faced in March 2020 before New Zealand went into lockdown. The current crisis has forced organisations to test the fundamental assumptions of their business models and they are frantically rewriting their business plans to pivot for survival - or to thrive in the opportunities that disruption offers, e.g. the rise of Zoom.

In a crisis, like a biological immune system, the ‘corporate immune system’ kicks in with a pre-programmed response to disruption; because cash flow is suddenly scarce preserving it becomes the critical survival response.

Not many five-year strategic plans would have considered a sudden pandemic lockdown and as markets get re-established the relationships between businesses and their customers need to be quickly rekindled and aligned. Do customers want your product/service the same way as before?

How can New Zealand organisations leverage this unique time to continue to encourage and benefit from being more nimble, experimental and entrepreneurial? What innovations can be activated for competitive advantage and defence from disruption?
 

Be bold when others are fearful

Innovation thrives when resources are limited, the problem is urgent, and a must-fix – often the biggest leaps in technology have been during times of crisis as this has driven experimentation and risk-taking.

Organisations today have a choice and there has never been a better time than now to design more boldly for the future. The legendary investor Warren Buffett used a prescient metaphor when he explained to shareholders in 1986: Outbreaks of two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur - so be bold when others are fearful.

When businesses become risk averse they can become undifferentiated and commoditised - becoming even more prone to disruptions that will only increase in speed (there are four pandemics predicted for the 21st century!).
 

Breaking loose new thinking

Some prompts to break loose new thinking and to design more boldly for the future:

  • If your business was a startup and you had a blank slate – would you design it the same way? If not - then that is a good place to start thinking about where you would invest or divest to survive or thrive.
  • Can you drive your business into adjacent markets and test them by placing a series of small bets that are risk contained?
  • Can you unbundle an existing business model in your industry? Reduce investment in your physical assets and leverage other organisations' assets and staff?
  • What new products/services will emerge in your industry and in adjacent markets and can you design Minimal Viable Products to test opportunities - quickly?
  • Can your organisation embrace experimentation and remove the stigma of failure via a "fail-fast" approach to encourage validated learning, risk-taking and entrepreneurship?
  • Do you start with the problem first and quickly pull it apart by deploying design thinking approaches then test ideas as experiments?
  • Do you know who the disruptive startups are in your industry? Do you partner, invest or acquire?
     

Building immunity

Injecting these innovation principles into your organisational culture could be a partial 'vaccine' for disruption and could build immunity - creating agility to pivot for survival and competitive advantage.

We have all been disrupted by the same invisible thing at the same time whilst having the most powerful technology that has ever existed and the innovation tools ready at our fingertips. The time is now to connect to our future and spark innovation's moment of maximum leverage inside New Zealand organisations to adapt and thrive in the post-COVID world!
 

About Beca's New Ventures Accelerator

Beca's New Ventures Accelerator is an innovation and entrepreneurship centre of excellence designed from world-leading corporate accelerator programmes. The team is focused on rapidly responding to urgent must-fix problems and scalable business opportunities with industry, startups and the investment community. More on them here.

About the Author

Stephen Westwood

Associate - Marketing and Communications, New Ventures Accelerator

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