Innovate Like Hell During Coronavirus Downtime

Travel is curtailed. Conferences are cancelled. Employees are working from home. The sales process has stalled. What will happen when the Coronavirus pandemic’s grip on the world eases? Companies that aggressively move forward during a slowdown will eclipse competitors and emerge with newfound vigor.

In her excellent March 13, 2020 Washington Post Retropolis history blog post, Staff Writer Gillian Brockell recounts how college student Isaac Newton used his “Social Distancing” mandate during the 1665 Black Plague to go home to and bum around. Netwon’s idle thinking during this downtime led to both early calculus and his theory of gravity. Isaac went home and innovated like hell.

Most people in a company are ill-equipped to imagine calculus or discover gravity. Regardless, each and every person in a company can use their slow time to discover their inner Newtons (some of which may be Fig Newtons, but that’s the challenge of working from home) and innovate within their domains. With the right conditions, this newfound time for focus may lead to breakthroughs in cohesiveness, product fit, improved processes, organizational alignment, and myriad other beneficial changes. However, transforming a tactical team into a strategic force usually requires more than just an open calendar.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of bringing in an impartial third party who is experienced in driving innovation, building value, and executing organizational change in tech companies. The missing catalyst is a well informed, outside consultant – 10xPrinciples.

10xPrinciples provides the following types of guidance to foster innovation:

  1. Reflection – A pandemic slows things down and provides time for “what if thinking”. What if time is used to align objectives by formalizing an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) process? What if time is taken to assign metrics to a company’s various opportunities to relatively evaluate them? What if usage patterns in products are studied to determine what to enhance and what to sunset?
  2. Housekeeping – This is different from housecleaning, which implies a reduction in force. Housekeeping is all about tidying up – taking a critical look at the organization and determining if teams are right-sized and functional. This is the perfect opportunity to tweak job responsibilities to better align with customer needs.
  3. Strengthening – Companies that experience rapid growth seldom have time to catch their collective breath and right-size their processes to match their new reality. Most commonly, the connective tissue between teams that used to be so tightly woven has frayed with team expansion and the tug of conflicting, new responsibilities. This is a time to re-weave the fabric that connects teams so that customers recapture the same cohesive experience they’ve come to expect.
  4. Creativity – This isn’t just about devising a new whiz-bang product. It’s about giving employees the space to envision a different future. That is, it’s about asking employees what should change to become a better company. Employees will produce revolutionary ideas if they are temporarily freed from the daily grind and 10xPrinciples guides them to consider the most urgent of their customers’ pain points.

Take note that these ideas aren’t monetarily expensive. This is a repurposing of the time that was previously spent in the daily hustle bustle. With the assistance of 10xPrinciples, companies that reflect deeply, change meaningfully, and innovate radically are the ones that experience a rebirth and emerge victorious.