Business Innovator and Catalyst
As we usher in 2021, I am sure that many of us will be happy to know that 2020 is square in the rear-view mirror. Although we cannot drive forward while fixating on the pile-up of cars 2020 left behind us, we can certainly glance back at the 2020 calamity and recognise how it has redefined us, at least in part.
The chaos that has resulted from these unprecedented times is like a great big global bellows to the flames of innovation. Where before there may have been pockets of innovation resulting in a couple of sparks among tinder, now there are heaving winds fuelling real change.
This time last year the Blackslope team was on an innovation tour of Silicon Valley (back in the good old days when travelling to another country was more common than wearing a face mask). As part of our visit, we attended the Global CleanTech conference, a gathering of leading corporates, investors and entrepreneurs driving the commercialisation of carbon responsible businesses. At the time I could not have imagined how the conference theme ‘Chaos of the 2020s: Urgent Actions, Unusual Strategies, Unexpected Allies’ would become overwhelmingly relevant. The sessions, which now feel almost prophetic, revolved around how in 2020 (and beyond) business will require unusual strategies to act on opportunities that are born from the need for urgent actions, requiring agility and unconventional allies, to innovate and fuel business survival and success.
Practically speaking, the companies that were/are able to innovatively embrace some of these fundamental principles are the ones that have gained (will gain) the most:
- Change in global participation A marked change in the dedication to and participation around global value chains. Highlighted by the inability to effectively fulfil business requirements in 2020, companies that could shift to local value chain sourcing and/or manufacture locally gained considerably. No longer is the strategy about a race to the bottom (leveraging the commodities in the East and Asia): rather, a more strategic sourcing game is required with locality trumping price more often than not.
- Public pressure – health and climate There has been a sharp increase in pressure on government and corporates the last 18 months. With the pandemic and global climate crisis events occurring and the WHO and UN sounding the alarm, citizens are demanding change.
- Unconventional cooperation Faced with a rapid shift in purchasing power and industry reform, many corporates, SMEs and start-ups have opted for a collaborative approach at innovation. Increased alliances and value chain cooperation is resulting in non-traditional partnerships to rapidly take advantage of new opportunities.
In a world where we (globally) just ‘blew’ some $16 trillion to fight a pandemic that didn’t exist 18 months ago, agility trumps tradition, collaboration outsmarts competition and opportunity is only relevant if we can innovate and adapt to capture it.