Originally published in ExpertClick October 1, 2021
The Best Companies Innovate for Growth, Not Just Survival
CLAREMONT, CA— Results-based innovation has come to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC). Executives and organizations unsurprisingly moved to products and services that maintained top-line growth. But the crème de la crème went a step further—creating whole new processes that exploit future trends today.
Best Companies Innovate to Meet These Needs
“Our most successful clients reacted to the pandemic by innovating,” points out Lisa Anderson, president of Claremont, CA-based LMA Consulting Group, Inc and manufacturing expert known for creating supply chain resiliency. “Not only did these clients adapt quickly to the changing conditions, but they also got creative in looking for opportunities to innovate and thrive.
“The most proactive executives helped their teams look for opportunities instead of focusing solely on challenges,” adds Anderson. “Where there were unserved needs in their industry, these clients identified them. They looked for products that could be produced with the same equipment that could provide value during the pandemic or, more importantly, they went beyond the status quo to focus on future and changing needs in the marketplace.
“Instead of letting their best talent go, they found ways to use these people, develop them, and encourage them to innovate and grow,” she adds.
The Pandemic Drives Workplace Flexibility
“There is a pervasive restlessness among employees engaging management to respond with workplace innovation.” says Dr. Maynard Brusman, a San Francisco Bay Area consulting psychologist and executive coach.
According to Dr. Brusman, “There is a spectrum of different philosophies regarding on-site and remote work. Some companies want to go back to an in-person culture, because it’s easier to collaborate and create emotional and cultural connection. Other companies support remote work. Companies are experimenting with hybrid home-office work schedules and greater employee autonomy.”
Dr. Brusman advises his executive coaching clients “Changes arising from the pandemic will accelerate the importance of business leaders who are flexible. Leaders need to be a coach, mentor, and obstacle-remover to their employees.”
Experience Shows Clients Want Integral Support
“Every one of our clients had to be creative to withstand the turbulence of the pandemic,” said Kathleen McEntee, president of Kathleen McEntee and Associates, Ltd (KMA), a full-service marketing firm that helps companies reach their target markets with the right message, through the right media, for the greatest impact. “Some changed their process. Others changed products and services. And while others were briefly forced to close, they weathered through by repurposing their core skills to deliver different services.
“To support our clients, we also had to make changes,” adds McEntee. “We became a more integral part of each client company. We were involved in brainstorming for new products, processes, and service delivery methods. We supported clients in changing their messaging to provide a way to share their expertise to keep customers engaged. Creativity and innovation became a survival tactic that helped most companies thrive!”
Finding Creativity Where No One Had Gone Before
After recovering from the initial shock of a worldwide pandemic shutdown, many firms turned their attention to creating new and different offerings that fit the times, according to Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic firm marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates, and author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters.
“Some of these changes were extensions of previous offerings—like food and wine to go, or curbside pickup from retail stores,” she said. “But others were brand new inventions—like livestream services for weddings and funerals, turning distilleries into hand sanitizer plants, or creating a million fun, innovative varieties of masks.”
“The organizations that are thriving through this experience are the ones who said we’ve never been here before—what do we need to do to provide products and services that our customers need now? Those that are sitting and waiting for the ‘good old days’ of normal are likely to find they’re getting soaked by the situation without benefiting from the silver lining in the cloud.”
Most Resilient Companies Win With Packages For People
“I define ‘innovation’ as ‘applied creativity.’ In fact, my very first book was on that topic,” said SAC Founder Alan Weiss, PhD. “During the pandemic, the most resilient firms abandoned even seemingly good ideas, unless they could apply them short term and make a profit from them. Those firms without chronic staffing problems today are those applying innovative practices to hiring and retention—like creating packages around people rather than forcing people into packages.”
The Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) is the premier association for independent consulting professionals who subscribe to an industry code of ethics and provide significant consulting results among their clients. Founded by Million Dollar Consulting guru Alan Weiss in 2003, SAC offers a series of in-person and online programs to help consultants share best practices and learn from industry experts and thought leaders in the business world. SAC today has members in 14 countries around the world.