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Home > Leading in turbulent times: how to innovate during the recession!

Leading in turbulent times: how to innovate during the recession!

Global-EconomicTrends.jpgEven as news and financial pundits endlessly debate the question, let’s face reality: the US economy is in a recession.

Given this reality, the key question going forward is: what do you do now to ensure that you remain innovative, competitive, and forward-oriented?

Innovate for the upturn! That’s the key message I focused on with my clients in 2002-3, and the same message holds true today. And that was the focus of a keynote last week when I spoke to one of the largest US commercial / industrial real estate brokerage groups. There were several bits of insight I shared with them:

Put sub-prime into perspective
One of my first comments for this audience of senior executives? We need to think about the sub-prime mess in the context of a longer term view. In the last ten years, we’ve been through many economic challenges:

  • the 1998 Asian currency collapse
  • the 2000 dot.com meltdown
  • the 2001 global telecom restructuring
  • from 2001 to 2003, the impact of 9-11 and economic uncertainty
  • 2007 to 2008, the march to $100 oil
  • and now sub-prime….

Sub-prime is a big issue, but it’s just another blip in the grand scheme of the churning engine that is the global economy. Through the next ten years, we’ll see a few other economic challenges along the way; various regional economies and sectors will be impacted; yet innovation will abound. That’s why I’ve also indicated that a key leadership mantra for the high velocity economy is this: “volatility is the new normal.” That’s a topic I covered in a recent economic interview.

Keep focused on the longer term view
I tend to be an optimist: that’s because I think in a longer term perspective. Think about it: over the next 10 years, there are several certainties:

  • scientific discovery will continue to advance at an ever increasing pace, opening new markets, evolving existing markets, and establishing countless new opportunities
  • global collaborative knowledge communities will continue to lead to faster innovation in every industry and market
  • new products, methodologies, skills, ideas, organizational structures will continue to evolve at a fast pace; agile organizations will continue to come out on top
  • the transition of economies in the Mid-East and Asia will continue despite regional economic challenges
  • rapidly aging economies in North America and Europe will drive rapid spending, innovation and knowledge discovery in the world of health care
  • global energy conciousness will continue to lead to ever more rapid evolution of “green” solutions
  • 1/2 of the global population is under the age of 25. They’re change aggressive, and will continue to lead to the rapid adoption of new ideas.
  • growth in markets is a simple reality: in agriculture, global food production still has to double in the next 25 years to keep up with population trends. Sub-prime has no impact on this reality.

Don’t let aggressive indecision take over your thinking

To innovate in the upturn, don’t let a short-term vs long-term trend disconnect take over your strategic thinking. Already, I can see the signs of some companies heading into an innovation rut, their staff and executives encumbered by a dangerous state of complacency, while other companies innovate, change, and adapt to the “new normal” that is now our reality.

In the last recession, “aggressive indecision” became a driving cultural and leadership trait. Organizations that fell into this funk fell behind. Innovative companies didn’t permit that to happen then, and you shouldn’t let this happen now.


  • Read Global Economic Trends: An Interview with Jim Carroll
  • The reality of future trends: grab the What Comes Next trends overview
  • Read my 2003 article about “aggressive indecision”
  • Read my Credit Suisse interview for my thoughts on “growth”

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