How to turn a crisis into opportunity in innovation

We are all facing an unexpected challenge. But even (and especially) in times of crisis, innovation should not drop off the top of your must-do list. Our capacity to adapt, ideate, fail and succeed fast becomes even more critical.

Digital transformation and new ways of working are inevitable. Focus and resilience are key to help us survive and make businesses evolve faster. We owe it to our companies and stakeholders, but also to our employees and our community.

But how can we ensure focus is not lost when people are apart? Is it still possible to draw on the wisdom of the crowd to find solutions for your key challenges collaboratively, when the crowd isn’t physically there? Can a culture of innovation and collaboration exist beyond office walls, helping you turn a crisis around and change practices and mindsets? The answer is: absolutely.


The 6 steps to accelerate business innovation

Of course, it isn’t as cut and dry as this. If it was glaringly obvious before that innovation managers must be prepared to step up their efforts, then they must now increase their leadership, commitment and dedication tenfold to overcome any challenges – old and new – to innovate successfully.

It is critical not to lose sight of your goals. If you are managing innovation, these 6 ingredients are essential for your organisation to find new ideas quickly and come out on top:


1.      Leadership and commitment

If there was ever a time when a good leader would have to see the bigger picture and alternative possibilities, this is it. An innovation leader is the mainstay of a company’s innovation efforts and the central cog in implementing a thriving culture of innovation and collaboration. There is a whole new world of undiscovered possibilities; the job of an innovation leader (be it a CEO or innovation head) is to channel their organisation’s sense of purpose to the workforce, and promote ideation and experimentation as a means to achieve established goals, together.

2.      People-first strategy

When a company’s biggest strength is its workforce, a shift in company dynamic at this scale can unsettle even the most stable organisations. For this reason, efforts should be doubled to put people first and harness the unique skillsets and perspectives of each individual. From online communication channels to innovation management tools, a people-first strategy – primarily when remote – ensures joint attention, cohesion and, ultimately, the continuity of a culture of innovative thinking in more turbulent times. This also reminds you that you are not alone in this. Everyone can help to make a difference and employees deserve the chance to be part of the solution.

3.      Clear goals

When things get hectic, it can be easy to lose sight of your innovation goals and your sense of purpose. Yet it is more important now than ever before. After readjusting strategic and operational goals and ensuring they stay at the heart of your innovation agenda, they should be translated into an agile plan that is closely adhered to. The same goes for measuring the results: establish KPIs and make sure to communicate them continuously to your community.

4.      Strong ideation factory

It may seem like a difficult task with a dispersed workforce, but harnessing collective intelligence really is the fundamental pillar of managing innovation. In times of crisis, organisations need the best ideas to see them through, easily and quickly. And your average communication tools or mainstream ideation boxes will likely not be up to the challenge. The strongest ideas can come from anyone, anywhere. Collaborative innovation is still possible outside of an organisation’s walls. Methods such as gamification help keep enthusiasm levels high and your employees engaged, while tools such as collaborative innovation software can help you nurture a culture of innovation. They ensure the best ideas continue to filter down to you when you need them most.

5.      Openness to digital transformation

Regardless of external factors, digital transformation is the unavoidable edge that all companies must have. If organisations want to keep up and make the most of the current pace of technological progress, they must embrace the new capabilities of digital innovation and focus on investing in making people and partners innovate together across all functions, levels and regions. Those that do not will get left behind, with little chance to catch up. Things can and must change very fast when there is no other way to go forward.

6.      Flexibility and resilience

Adaptability is key to overcoming any obstacles that arise, helping organisations thrive regardless of setbacks, whatever the scale. Creating flexible, adaptable structures, especially in sectors that may be the hardest hit, enables organisations to grab new opportunities for growth so that they are not left behind in this fast-moving, ever-changing reality. Times like these test and build up your structural resilience, and only the resilient will come out the other side.


As companies, as employees, as citizens, we know that tough times tend to bring people together. Innovative, flexible and resilient organisations that strive towards a common goal and a greater good are those that will be able to face new challenges head on. And live to tell the tale.

When the future looks uncertain, you cannot turn adversity into opportunity without encouraging a broader culture of collaborative innovation and nurturing a strong ideation factory. What organisations need right now are the right tools, the right mindset and the right people to join forces and transform a crisis into opportunity.

Diana Neves de Carvalho, CEO of Exago

Mariana Branco de Sousa, Head of Sales, Exago

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