5 mins read

#ForcedInnovation and COVID-19

Developing as a consequence of circumstance

This blog is written to compliment a recent webinar I delivered for Doncaster Chamber of Commerce on ‘Forced Innovation’ and how our context is pushing us to evolve.

Image credit to Liz Birkinshaw who created this ‘sketchnote’ after listening to me ramble.


Our world of work WILL change!

We are in this for the long haul, well I hope we are. What I mean is I hope we (our business) survive the long haul. However to survive it is likely we will have to change. This may be a simple change in process or a more deeper change in thinking, mind set and direction. We may even find some business switching sectors for the immediate situation or in preparation for a future ‘new normal’.

“The UK is facing a “significant period” of strict measures to cope with the coronavirus outbreak….

Michael Gove – Cabinet Office Minister


Forced Adaptation

In preparing for this webinar I came across an interesting article in Forbes online by Heather McGowan a ‘future of work strategist’, and author of the ‘Adaption Advantage’…

How The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Accelerating The Future Of Work.

I found it an extremely insightful read with lots more within than just the ‘Coronavirus’ however in this current context what stood out me was this assertion…

“The coronavirus, it turns out, might be the great catalyst for business transformation”

And with it this graphical depiction…

I have always been a believer that technology is advancing at a pace beyond a human beings capacity to use it. I have an iPhone as many people do, but I am unlikely to ever use it to its fullest capacity. I just can’t and never needed to… but also I probably never knew its full capacity. I have never really stretched it, it has stretched me!

However I can say in just the past 2 weeks of ‘isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ I have found myself being pushed up on the dotted red curve in the graph above. Having to rapidly adapt to the situation, accommodate multiple clients on multiple (personal preference) platforms. Working on the move used to be the new thing. Now its running a business truly from your phone or iPad (PC etc) whilst locked away at home away from others. Its time to think differently!


Thinking Differently about the Same Stuff

It doesn’t take long to find business that have jumped very quickly into this space. Thinking differently about that they have at their disposal – a workforce, resources, assets, premisses, channels for communication and distribution etc.

Here are just two examples of companies (one large, one small) who have very quickly and cleverly re-purposed their resources to meet an immediate need (and who know, perhaps capture a future market – boutique hand sanitiser)…

These people didn’t necessarily think ‘outside the box’ perhaps they just thought differently about whats in the box.


A Framework for Changing a Mindset

For this I turn to Chris Argyris & ‘Double Loop Learning’. Before we get to the double we need to know what the single version of this is.

Single-loop learning – presents when goals, values, frameworks and, to a significant extent, strategies are taken for granted. The emphasis is on ‘making things more efficient

In single loop learning we expend our energies on getting better at doing the same thing. In todays climate that may not work. Doing the same thing quicker or better is no good if you are not needed right now. Your business or you are in a situation of being furloughed!

Double-loop learning – in contrast, ‘involves questioning’ the role of the framing and learning systems which underlie actual goals and strategies of a business (the why)..

In double loop learning we allow teams (the people who run the makings of a business) to question everything. Not to pull it apart but to learn and to restate the purpose or change the purpose of a business (if needed). I believe this approach is necessary right now if we are to make informed decisions in the rapidly changing and uncertain world of COVID-19.

  • Single loop – change your actions (or simply improve them)
  • Double loop – change your mindset (your ways of working/purpose)

Double-loop learning requires three attributes:

  1. Self-awareness – to question what may have become unconscious
  2. Honesty – to discuss seen errors with other and establish the cause.
  3. Responsibility – to be taken by all for implementing change in actions/methods and learn from the moment.


A Methodology to Embrace the Double Looper

Again I found myself learning from Forbes Online – this time it was Ted Ladd – Dean of Research and a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Hult International Business School (and much more). In his article How To Reinvent Your Business To Thrive After The Coronavirus, he offer 4 stages/steps we as business or individuals can can take to do just that – thrive.

I wont give the full detail of his guidance here, but I do suggested you read his article. I really found it helpful in picturing my own evolution over the coming weeks and months. A summary for reference:

4 Steps to Survival

    1. Deconstruction – Reinvention can be about subtle shifts but may have major change implications for the 9 elements of your Business Model Canvas (see image below). Separate out these an look at them deeply.


    1. Imagination – brainstorm a long list of alternatives for these 9 elements – customer segment, value proposition, channel, customer relationship, key activities, key resources, key partners, revenues, and costs. Don’t Judge just list BE divergent in Thought!


    1. Testing – Test each one of your ideas independently without spending any money by having conversations directly with customers. Explore customer their problems don’t sell.


    1. Prototype – create simplified versions of your product or service to offer to paying customers- perhaps on a buy now pay later (or in instalments). Use a gradual go to market strategy.


Now the best ‘nugget of gold’ in this articles was being directed to look at myself and how I operate through the lens of the ‘Business Model Canvas’ an image of which is shown below. Basically take time as a time independent to work through each of these. The answers you gave when you first ste up your business may well not be the answers for todays context or our ‘future normal’. You’ll find some great guidance on how to navigate this approach here – https://www.strategyzer.com or just get in touch with me kurt@bemorelnd.co.uk and we can work though it together.


In closing

I take us back to the title of this webinar ‘Forced Innovation’. We are being forced by our context to evolve. Don’t discount anything, think of the opposites to what you would do, maybe between here and there something relevant pop’s up. Believe in yourself to make this work, my parting note…

“The game has changed so lets change the rules…”


Kurt Ewald Lindley – evolving with my context

Thanks to Jade Dyer of Doncaster Chamber of Commerce for giving me the platform for this conversation. And thank you to the participants on the webinar for their engagement and questions. I hope I was of value. Final thanks to Steve McQuaidMichael Cook and Simon Toole who provided the material for this story. A great output of the ‘Ideas Team’.