10 Things You Need to Do to Innovate in a Recession


RDA008.jpgBusiness Week ran an article in January, “10 Worst Innovation Mistakes in a Recession.”

It’s easy to point out mistakes. It can be harder to indicate what you should be doing.

I’ve been out speaking to organizations about trends, the future, innovation and creativity for fifteen years. Since last year, when the meltdown began, I’ve been keynoting events worldwide, rapidly adjusting my theme to one of “how you can innovate during a recession.” I’ve had the opportunity of seeing first hand quite a few very innovative strategies from CEO’s and others in a wide variety of events, and I keep modifying my message at rapid speed to incorporate a vast variety of ideas.

So I just took a few minutes to post a comment to the Business Week site, and I’ll post my quick thoughts here too. Here’s a list of 10 off the top of my head:

1. Focus your team — relentlessly — on growth. I keynoted a global organization in Las Vegas in February. The CEO got on stage before me — and spoke about the recession for one minute. He then spent 19 minutes speaking to the growth opportunities that the organization could pursue. That’s what everyone needs to do right now. There are growth opportunities in every industry. Focus on them!

2. Respond faster. When I keynoted a food industry summit in New York, we spoke of the need to respond faster to the fact that consumer preferences were changing more rapidly than ever before. More people eating at home, sensitive to dollars, looking for food-comfort. Reformulate new brand and product options faster. Just do it. Don’t study — do.

3. Invest in the brand. Brands can become weaker in a recession, particularly as consumers scramble for value. Decide where you want to reposition your product/brand, and act fast to do it rather than studying it to death.

4. Mix it up. Don’t assume that worked before the recession will work now. Try out a lot of ideas, particularly around value. “I’m experimenting rapidly with price points and product mix.”

5. Invest in experience. Lots of your staff will be down in the dumps, and are spinning their wheels. Get a message out that NOW is the time to invest in experience. Try things out, to build up the collective experience of your team.

6. Kill off the innovation killers. Reframe your team, so that they are thinking “what a great idea,” rather than viewing with suspicion any new ideas. Remember — everyone is worried about being laid off, and paranoia sucks the life out of innovation faster than anything else.

7. Collaborate within the industry. When I keynoted the American Nursery and Landscape Association recently, I stood in awe of the blog they were running that was offering practical, on the ground, easy to implement ideas that retailers could put into their stores NOW.

8. Seek ideas. Go knowledge farming once a day, looking for ideas on customer service, operations, IT strategies, and just about anything else. There’s a flood of ideas out there — now’s a great time to chase them down and do things.

9. Partner up. Sure, resources are scarcer during a recession. That’s why you can speed up innovation with anything — from advertising, to customer service, business model implementation, IT strategy, opportunities for operational excellence or just about anything else — by seeking partners to help you out. That will help you achieve key goals faster.

10. Get over it. Lots of organizations are still stuck in the anger and denial phase of the Seven Steps of Economic Grief. Make a decision to get into the acceptance stage, and move on. This will recession will pass, just like every other one.

There are dozens more…..


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.