The pandemic is unlocking innovation talent

Niall McDonagh – NRL Consulting

My wife is the head of HR at a global financial services company. Through her, I see teams from diverse parts of the organisation coming together and innovating. There is no playbook for the situation that we’re in today but they are implementing new ideas every day. Out of necessity perhaps, but the innovation talent of individuals and teams around the world is being unlocked – and not before time! The Covid-19 Pandemic has in effect created a huge laboratory for organisational and leadership experimentation.

Innovation in Action

Although many individuals are facing anxieties and personal hardships, there also seems to be an undercurrent of energy, even in this incredibly harsh environment. Teams are being agile, rather than just taking about it. People are speaking up and their ideas are being heard. The leadership behaviours that are associated with nurturing a culture of innovation are being practiced, not just encouraged and discussed.

Questioning & curiosity, challenging the status quo, taking risks, experimenting, looking for and recognising weak signals & patterns. Leaders, managers & teams are all practicing innovation skills and creating value, not despite but because of the constraints imposed through the pandemic. ‘Creativity loves constraints’, as Marissa Mayer often said when she was a VP at Google.

Looking ahead, making the most of this opportunity

There is no doubt that the post-pandemic world will be different and has the potential to create a step-change in how we work and how we lead our organisations. As the crisis subsides, as leaders and key influencers we must do all we can to identify, label and capture all of the great behaviours and latent innovation skills that have been unleashed.

Creativity and innovation is and will undoubtedly remain a fundamental source of value creation and growth, for companies, for economies and for society. It will be even more critical in a post-pandemic world which is likely to be facing a significant economic recession. 

Looking forwards, as we emerge from our quarantined world, we must make the most of this unique opportunity. As leaders, we must challenge ourselves and our teams to avoid falling back without any thought into our pre-pandemic routines, behaviours and management processes.

Mobilizing the entire organisation

Forward-thinking organisations are already setting up post-pandemic task-forces to capture what they can learn from this forced upheaval. They will learn invaluable lessons that they will assimilate into new organisational designs and corporate processes. This is great, but it is also the duty of every leader at every level to have a similar mindset and approach…. and then take action!

The Covid-19 pandemic is creating the best opportunity many of us have ever known to experiment with and improve our leadership behaviours and impact. As my good friend and colleague, the leadership guru Didier Marlier often says to his senior executive audiences, “It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do.” There is probably no better time to follow this simple advice!

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