The spread of innovation

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By Jesmond Saliba

If necessity is the mother of invention, crisis is the mother of innovation. As we abandon the system that supports our social, commercial and personal interactions, the resulting vacuum is leaving many companies gasping for air.

Successful business models built over years and decades have been fractured. But it is increasingly clear that waiting the emergency out and hoping for a steady comeback is no longer an option.

These weeks of turbulence are not a silent interval and things will not return to what they were before the disease broke out. To overcome the novel coronavirus, companies need to create novel value propositions.

In this scenario, state aid ought to be more properly understood as investment in the country’s innovation rather than as expensive hand-outs to keep companies afloat. A relief budget is a vital instrument to help businesses prepare for the new reality ahead.

To a large extent, patterns of life will resort to what we still feel is normalcy: we will return to our places of work, we will crowd the streets, throw events, shake hands and fly out. The world, however, will by then have turned a corner even if the scenery will not look immediately different.

To consider just one adjustment, many businesses have been forced to speed up their digitisation plans to compensate for in-person trade. When the dust settles, do not expect them to scale back from e-commerce; if anything, they will use this situation as a testing period to launch better, more powerful products later.

Consumer attitudes will also have changed by the end of the crisis even if everyone will return to the old ways with more gusto. But we will also look differently at fundamental matters such as living spaces or work-life balance or mobility, posing new questions to major industries like construction and development, transportation, hospitality and travel, technology and finance, and the gig economy.

There will be no radical transformations on the surface, but structurally the mind of the consumer, the employer, the employee, the public servant has already changed. And so must business strategies.

Jesmond Saliba 


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