From the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to slowing economic growth to supply-chain issues to heightened geopolitical tensions, 2022 has been a tough year already. And it’s only April!
It’s unsurprising that many investors are warning of an economic recession on the horizon. While not ideal, a down market actually carries a silver lining for smart business leaders. Why? It’s at times like these when companies can take cold, hard looks at their processes and procedures and rethink how their business is done in order to improve efficiency and drive growth. In other words, it’s at times like these that we should go back to the drawing board—and innovate.
American Express’s CEO, Ken Chenault, said this during the 2008 market crash: “A difficult economic environment argues for the need to innovate more, not to pull back.”
According to a June 2020 survey by McKinsey, roughly 75% of executives in knowledge economies expected Covid to be one of the biggest opportunities for growth. The report noted that in crisis, such as during the pandemic, we are presented with a choice: to fall back and hunker down, or to forge ahead—and, potentially, to thrive. “Prioritizing innovation today is the key to unlocking postcrisis growth,” McKinsey said.
That’s why I think it’s a mistake to refer to our next phase of post-pandemic life as a simple “return to the office.” There is no “return” because the work life we knew in 2019 has changed—and changed forever. Clocking in and 9 a.m. and clocking out at 5 p.m., five days a week, in a shared office space? No longer the norm. We are headed in a new direction, and the “way we’ve always done things” won’t cut it.
We need to take a deep dive into our processes and procedures and figure out if what we’re doing is the best possible thing for our customers, our operations and our people. For example, just because we’ve always delivered products this way doesn’t mean it’s the best (or only) option. Maybe there’s a new solution. Maybe there’s even a new product! In my experience, one of the best ways to innovate is to communicate with your stakeholders—your customers, your employees and your leaders—to understand what’s working, what’s not, and what additional needs they might have.
Now’s the time to be nimble, creative and, above all else, willing to pivot in new directions to soar higher than before.
What are some ways you’ve altered your business model or opened yourself up to new approaches recently? What are some ways you might doing that going forward?