Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Innovation in Difficult Times

Many of us feel the economic slowdown, and many of us are in constrictive thinking (cost reductions, productivity challenges, competitive pricing, customer payment challenges,longer sales cycles) etc....While we can't control the economy or other major forces of change - what we can do is position ourselves to thrive positively in challenging times. This blog provides some tips to lead innovation more effectively in challening markets.


The most challenging reality in an economic slowdown is to ensure some of the following tactics are put into play. If an organization paralyzes itself with fear based thinking, the creative innovation energy that is so precious to develop new products and services can be drained.

So we recommend:

1. Think Outside the Box - and plan in many directions. Apply scenario planning for the business on both best and worst case scenarios to increase your organization's leadership level of readiness to execute effectively. When times are tough gearing up more options to plan against increases team building, align(s) possibilities and provides increased confidence that the organization is doing everything possible to operate effectively. Perhaps, you share the scenarios on a wiki to involve your employees more actively and ask them to think of alternative scenarios. Increasing employee engagement will increase their resilience to "act."

2. Neutralize your fear. Neuroscience tells us that when the fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and risk-taking are turned off. You can start to neutralize that system by avoiding people who are all doom and gloom about the economy and turning off the constant negative media news. Focus on the positive.

3. Stay energized and in the game even when its tough. In difficult markets, employees and leaders often simply hunker down and focus on the short term. They often decrease their visibility in the organization. This is actually the worst thing you can do. In times like this - employees need to become more visible. So volunteer for projects, speak up more, find pathways to learn more, keep stimulating good ideas to help the organization save money but also inject solutions to support the long term. A balance is what will win the day to a healthier economic recovery.

4. Never stop learning. Now and in the future - your value to any organization depends less on what you know and more on how quickly you can update your knowledge and respond to changing conditions. Change the types of magazines, trade journals and books that you read. Expand your thinking and new ideas will follow.

5. Innovation is always best stimulated from diversity. So network, network, network, and then network some more. This is all about increasing your social capital. Capital is the accumulated wealth, especially as used to produce more wealth. Social capital is the wealth that exists because of your social relationships. Think of this as the value of your conections to others.


When the going gets tough avoid the tendency to hunker down and grind things out day by day. Vary your work day. Find ways to learn, meet new people, and increase your visibility. Bring a positive energy forward and your employees will increase their confidence due to your "can do " attitude. Fear paralyzes growth and innovation. Avoid this trap - it is a death spiral.

Helix Commerce actively develops employee engagement and innovation stimulation programs using next generation collaboration solutions; wikis, blogs, and virtual worlds can increase an organization's collaboration skills especially in tough times when face to face interactions is increasingly under pressure against reduced budget $. However, even in these realities, organizations need to ensure that work is also fun. Avoid the fear trap, this is an innovation killer.

Give us a call and we can explore together how to increase your organization's innovation and employee engagement practices. If you have never experienced a training session in a virtual world conference or a meeting in a virutal world - you are missing out on one of the lowest cost tactics to stimulate innovation. or

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