Your Role as a Corporate Growth and Innovation Leader in Times of Crisis
We are in unprecedented times with a public health crisis that is impacting the lives of families all over the world as loved ones are impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic is also causing a major economic crisis as the economy struggles causing massive job losses, crippling many small businesses, and straining large companies.
It is easy to see why leaders and professionals in corporate growth, innovation, and marketing functions feel vulnerable. Especially at a time like this, uncertainty challenges our objectives and purpose. Financial realities force cutbacks in budgets and teams. Urgent priorities change the narrative of innovation and growth with virtually no preparation, forcing agility at a speed that’s never been tested.
In companies where agility, speed, and the challenge just to survive are the reality, teams focused on long-term growth objectives are feeling especially pressured. The chaos and urgency of dealing with the immediate crisis force some to question or challenge the need for innovative thinking and long-term strategy and growth activities.
Empathetic Strategic Innovation
If you lead or are a member of a team tasked with a growth function like innovation, strategic marketing or strategy, this environment can be unsettling. But it’s more important than ever to keep your resolve in a flexible and empathetic way. There will be uncertainty, heartbreak, and anxiety. For most, budgets will be cut, priorities will be changed, and momentum may slow. Even the personal place in the corporate ecosystem will be challenged.
You may feel displaced by the desperation of the situation and its implications, but you are not. Realize you have a critical role. The world needs innovation now and there is a future that needs growth. Companies need innovative and strategic action more than ever to solve immediate needs for survival, even while adapting to the realities of the future.
Because innovation needs to be as focused, efficient, and impactful as ever, you need to be able to adapt to the realities of today while not losing your purpose and focus to shape the future. Here are five things that growth and innovation leaders should do in this environment:
Understand the reality of your company’s situation.
While everyone is being impacted — most negatively — the degrees of impact can be significantly different. Ask yourself, is your company in survival mode, preservation mode or growth mode? What is the cash situation of your company? What is happening to your industry and markets?
Embrace the actions for short-term survival and be part of the solution.
Don’t isolate yourself from the realities of your company. In some cases, you don’t have a choice. There may be staff reductions, budget cuts, and realigned priorities that are handed to you. You may not agree with all that is happening. Accept the reality of the situation and become part of the solution.
Rapidly reprioritize your efforts.
Do you need to focus on creating new short-term solutions? What projects are on hold? What does not make sense anymore? What are new things to consider? What gets accelerated? These are questions you must ask, and your answers must be aligned with your leadership. The situational reality will help determine some of these answers and how you execute will not only help the company but help your credibility.
Don’t be tone-deaf.
Have a high sense of empathy about how what is happening is impacting others. Even if you are in a “good” situation, understand that others may not be as fortunate and your colleagues may have concerns that extend beyond business. Be cognizant of what or how you communicate, what you debate, and how you fit in.
Be at the front of understanding the impact of the new normal.
If we know one thing for certain, it’s that there will be a tomorrow, a next week, a next month, and a next year … it just may look different from what we have come to expect. If your role is to shape a path for the future of your company, you need to be at the forefront of understanding how economic and behavioral assumptions are changing. Succeeding in this effort may require changing priorities or maybe doubling down on ones that exist today. Either way, you need to be thinking and acting beyond today to help your company tomorrow.
This is a difficult time for many. Corporate innovation, strategy, and growth functions may feel a sense of instability and concern. The feeling is understandable, but now is also the time to embrace your role in a flexible and dynamic fashion. Understand your reality, be empathetic, and help shape the new reality.