Innovation: It’s More Than Just A Nice-To-Have

Our day-to-day lifestyle has significantly changed in this new reality created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of how tech-savvy you were before, you – like everyone else – now depend on digital tools to manage both your personal and professional life. Many of these products, services, and platforms did not exist or were only available to a select audience before the pandemic. Many were considered too innovative or “nice to have” but not necessary. But think about all of the older adults staying connected to their loved ones through video platforms, the average families using delivery apps for groceries, or the companies hosting large conferences in virtual setups – the list goes on and on. In most cases, there was no (or little) need for those tools before, so they were scarcely used. And yet, organizations still invested in and brought them to market.

Looking at the demand now, we can see some organizations were a step ahead of others. What’s their secret to knowing what will be needed in the future? The answer: their drive for innovation.

Innovation: what does it mean?

How many times have you heard or seen the word “innovation” just today? Well, at least four times in this article so far. And beyond? Yes, it’s everywhere, but it is still an abstract idea for many people – just a buzzword. Let’s dig deeper into what innovation is. Here is how several online sources (linked in the References below) define it:

  • Innovation is the process of doing things differently and discovering new ways of doing things.
  • Innovation is adapting to change to meet the demands of products or services better.
  • Innovation is improving business processes and models, developing new products or services, adding value to existing products, services, or markets.
  • The innovation aims to provide something original or unique that can have an impact on society.

Understanding and living innovation, especially in times of change

One point that is missing from this list: Innovation spares no one. It is essential for individuals and organizations, for the CEO of a company just as much as the entrepreneur who is just getting started. That said, you do not need to aim to be the next Amazon or Airbnb. Small changes can help you foster an innovation mindset to respond to potential disruptions proactively.

Imagine the current pandemic a decade ago: no virtual office meetings, no video calls with family and friends, no 24/7 food delivery to your doorstep. Think about the economic and emotional impact it would have had.

By all means, the economic impact today is enormous, but imagine how much worse it could have been in the past. Companies would have stopped operating with no alternatives; there would be no e-commerce, IT infrastructure, or availability. If there weren’t an innovative mindset and driven teams that created these products, services, and platforms, we would be in an even less fortunate scenario now.

Write (innovation) history!

“It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.”
— B.C. Forbes

At this moment, we are writing history. We live through the most disruptive period we have ever seen, a time when innovations are needed more than ever. Now, we need to think one step ahead and take this opportunity to reinvent ourselves. We also need to make this an ongoing practice – all of us, from small and midsize businesses to big corporations.

Whether you are producing something like face masks and need to rethink your supply chain management due to high demand, or you’re an events company that needs to go fully virtual in a single day, this applies to you.

I strongly believe that we will rise from this crisis with a new appreciation for innovation and change. Innovation should be a mandatory component of your daily experience and strategy instead of being regarded as a luxury – especially now.

Marita Mitschein

About Marita Mitschein

In support of SAP’s commitment to close the digital skills gap, Marita Mitschein is leading the SAP Training & Development Institute and overseeing all capacity-building initiatives across EMEA South. Marita is Senior Vice President Digital Skills EMEA South, Managing Director SAP Training & Development Institute, and SAP’s Global Executive Leadership Team Member.

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