A couple of blog posts ago we highlighted the need for management to get out of the bunker mentality that uncertainty and a rapidly unfolding crisis had pushed us into. It’s important for firms to think about how to trade their way out of this crisis, and not just how they traded into it, if they want a smooth transition to the new normal post virus.
More recently we pointed out that we have a perfect storm for innovation. Demand has collapsed for the old thing while new demand is popping up as we adapt, and the government is (effectively) subsidising innovation by providing unsecured loans and underwriting payroll (via JobKeeper).
Put these together and you have the potential for (some) firms to emerge from the crisis stronger and more capable than they went in. They’ll have a better understanding of what their customers are looking for and a better understanding of their business, resulting in more effective and efficient operations. They’ll have built a broader and richer portfolio of products and services have using the impetus of the crisis to drive innovation and experimentation. New winners and losers will be created, and so on.
That leaves one question unanswered: Where should a firm look for these new opportunities?
Innovations frameworks (Doblin’s Ten Types of Innovation is a good example) are great tools to understand how a firm might innovate. They’re not as helpful when it comes to finding where a firm should innovate. Especially when a firm is dealing with a particular event, a disruption.
Consequentially, we thought that we’d have a go a building a “Mud map for innovation in the work-from-home era”. We’ll break this into ‘where to look?’ and ‘what to look for?’
Often a service is more complex than “provide meal”. It’s not as easy as considering one aspect of our mud map—we need to consider all aspects at once. What we really need to do is unbundle these complex services, reimagine their parts, and then repackage them into something new.
Take a school camp, for example, imagining that you run a firm that provides week-long camps into upper-primary or lower-secondary school. These camps have a number of goals and contain many distinct activities. The main reason that they’re delivered as a bundle is mainly logistics, the challenge of getting to and from the camp site.
We can unbundle our school camps, breaking out the outcomes and activities. There are skills to be learnt, team building exercises and so on.
Each of these can be considered in isolation, traced on our mud map to determine how the game outcomes could be delivered in new ways, how new outcomes can be delivered in new ways, or even how new outcomes can be delivered in new ways.
Some activities would see children coming to the camp, using virtual meetings to sit around the campfire at night with their friends and a camp facilitator. Materials might be delivered to each child’s house for a ‘bush chemistry’ lesson. We can look for opportunities to do less, and to do more. We can find ways to take the camp to the child, or the child to the camp.
Finally, we can take our transformed activities are rebundle them, creating something makes the most of what we can do one. Rather than an intense one-week activity, we might weave camp activities into two or even four weeks of a school’s programme.
It quite possible that this new approach to provide more benefits than the old one.
This is something we saw with the recent Partner conference at Deloitte. The need to move the conference online made us realise that moving the conference online created new opportunities, and integrating online and offline would enable the creation of something superior to either approach on its own.
If we’re successfully at innovating our way out of the crisis we might find ourselves in better shape than we went in.