It was the economist Joseph Schumpeter who theorised that periods of crisis are a breeding ground for innovation. His analysis is based on the observation that economic crises, which, he says, are inherent to capitalism, carry their share of dangers but also bring new opportunities. Because established positions are questioned, companies have no choice but to explore new ideas in order to adapt. Schumpeter will say that innovation implies the destruction of what is in order to rebuild the future on new foundations.
This Schumpeterian theory is proving to be true. In the United States, the Great Depression of the 1930s was a particularly active period for the introduction of new products which, for some of them, are still part of our daily lives: radio, television, textiles (nylon), medical (penicillin) and consumer products (Coca-Cola, sewing machines, etc). A period marked by the collapse of living standards but during which companies were forced to innovate… or die. Closer to our time, the idea that innovation rhymes with consumption is still true: Apple’s iPod or the BMW Mini are examples of successful commercial launches in bearish economies.
The economic crisis we are experiencing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is a moment of truth. Many companies in all sectors are faced with abrupt changes in the environment that require them take action with regard to their cost base, their capital management and their ability to adapt by briging new products and services. To make this vital transformation a success, innovation is central. Whether it is driven by ad-hoc management, R&D or marketing departments, innovation teams are responsible for designing, creating and then marketing new offers and services that will determine the future performance of those companies.
Innovation means questioning what already exists. Innovation means going beyond preconceived ideas and exploring new ways of doing things to design products and services that find their audiences.
Since the beginning of the health crisis, many innovations have seen the light of day. All of them illustrate the fact that this crisis has made it possible to move the lines by encouraging companies to move away from their current activity and project themselves into new offers. Initiatives bringing together groups of industry leaders and researchers, who are working hand in hand to produce masks . Elsewhere, thematic calls for projects on specific subjects, , such as the “Air Quality Challenge ” initiative launched by Covivio and EDF to collect innovative proposals for indoor air quality and the control of energy consumption in buildings. But also the scaling-up of new forms of managerial innovations following the almost generalisation of home office for several months. We can already prefict that the winners of this crisis will be those who have been able to anticipate and reinvent themselves. Schumpeter would have approved.