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  • Kelly Wishart

COVID-19: Catalyst for innovation and permanent change?

In recent weeks, many businesses have focused on how they will maintain "business as usual" as they move regular office practices to employee's homes. For a lot of day-to-day activities, it is certainly not an issue and there are plenty of platforms and software that provide the capabilities for employees to move seamlessly to a remote workforce. Many employees and organisations are also finding new and improved ways to innovate and make this most unusual and unexpected time less scary and isolation feel a little less daunting.

Many organisations already use a variety of communication platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and even Facebook Messenger has it's Workplace offering, nothing new there. But it is the ways in which these platforms are being used that is inspiring and innovative. Even the way people are approaching isolation, in general, is a testament to the importance of innovation in these unprecedented times. Innovation might just be the key to surviving to the 'end' of this pandemic.

Last week, amidst all the chaos of press conferences, the introduction of emergency phases and discussions of full lockdowns, we saw many businesses close and events cancel. Those who are innovative saw an opportunity to continue what they do, to connect to their customers and build their brand in times of adversity. Pub Choir is a perfect example of providing a unique experience to their existing loyal fans and creating possibilities by opening themselves up to new supporters when they launched "Couch Choir". Engaging fans around the world to record themselves singing "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and submit their videos to be included in a compilation shared on social media. If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you watch it.

This innovation connected Pub Choir with a global audience with more than 2 million views and strengthened its brand and fan loyalty. While this event was not income-generating in the method of traditional ticket sales it has potential to build future opportunities. They delivered their unique form of connection, creation of community, feel-good sing-along atmosphere by being innovative and doing what they love. They saw what was possible and delivered in an effective, low overhead, high market engagement way that will have a significant long-term impact.

They are not the only ones using technology to innovate social changes and bring people together.

(Image: Mel Burf, Facebook)

In the space of three months, our society seems to have shifted from reporting on members of the community being assaulted with beer bottles in their driveway (recently reported in the Brisbane Times) to groups on Facebook popping up with names like "The Kindness Pandemic" and sharing heart-warming stories of the "Driveway Beers" movement, where neighbours come together to share a beer with neighbours while social distancing. As well as social movements for isolated kids such as "We're going on a bear hunt", #chalkwalk and Rainbow Trail trends. These innovations are popping up all over communities, shared by social media and technology to bring us all comfort, joy and a sense of togetherness in a time we are being told to distance ourselves from those not in our household.

There are many examples of innovation, not just technological innovation that businesses are implementing to combat the disruption of COVID-19. Many breweries and distilleries including Sydney craft brewer, Young Henry, and the Brisbane Distillery, usually producing fabulous gins, have adapted to manufacturing hand sanitiser to support health workers, medical facilities and community members who are at risk. While it was never likely that the sales of beer or gin would drop dramatically in times like this, its certainly smart to future-proof your business practices and innovate and adapt to the needs and market demands.

The disruption that has been forced upon us, the need to adapt to social isolation requirements, changes in priorities and consumer demand is an opportunity for innovation. Organisations have a choice to make - to hibernate, to try and conduct business as usual, or to focus on the future and use the capability and capacity of their business to create opportunities and competitive advantage for sustainability.

Change is with us to stay, and how businesses respond will impact their future success. Change is enabled by an organisation's culture and impacted by leadership. If your culture is impacting your ability to pivot, to innovate, to engage employees, to focus on future opportunities, then this is the time to assess and redesign your culture, so you have the ability to respond and recover when conditions change again.

Let us know how your organisation or family are innovating and adapting to the changes that COVID-19 is bringing, how is technology aiding you in this time? I look forward to discussing further with you.

Kelly Wishart

Business Administrator*

* And Newly Appointed Home-schooler



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