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How to Innovate in the New Normal

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

Creating an environment to support team back into the office and encourage innovation

If you're starting to plan that slow but necessary transition out of crisis mode, you're certainly not alone. However, the fact of the matter is that you're transitioning not into the world as you once knew it – instead, you'll be moving into a strange new landscape, one that's not even close to your old normal. How do you continue to innovate in this new business environment? Well, there are a few steps that today's leaders can take to help their teams thrive and continue to innovate as we enter into this new period of the unknown and the unfamiliar.

1) As we emerge from the crisis, leaders need to help heal their teams. It's also important not to assume that you can take a one-size-fits-all approach. You'll be dealing with team members who share various emotions, feelings, beliefs, and concerns. Most likely, your team members will fall within the following categories:

  1. Healthy individuals who have not fallen victim to the pandemic either in their immediate household or within their circles but are still concerned about returning to the workplace.

  2. People who had fallen ill or those who have loved ones who have fallen sick, including those who are recovering/have recovered.

  3. People who lost a loved one and are going through a cycle of grieving.

Merely recognizing these three groups and adjusting your interventions specifically for each will go a long way toward helping workers heal.

2) You will need to change your mindset to focus on creating opportunities out of this crisis. The change in attitude will require shifts from:

  • Perfection to Learning: Instead of demanding perfect results from your team, you should focus on how the team is incorporating new developments, knowledge, and strategies within their work. This new knowledge can come from formal training on new relevant skills or a trial and error process.

  • Resource Scare to Innovative Way: Find new ways to focus on using what's available instead of focusing on what's missing is key to continuing innovation in scarcity.

  • Hierarchical Decisions to Democratic Culture: Allowing the team to drive decision-making instead of the traditional top-down approach.

3) In this ever-changing and unknown environment, it will be beneficial to have a 'learning vision' that changes as the business environment consistently changes during this new normal. Though having a dynamic vision is critical, it's even more essential to communicate early and often within your teams.

4) You will need to communicate with your team with clarity in terms of:

  1. What You Know Now

  2. What You Still Don't Know

  3. What's Being Done

  4. What To Expect In The Coming Days

During a crisis and immediately after, this communication needs to be casual, conversational and more emotional than in the pre-crisis environment.

5) Encouraging experimentation and making room for failure and mistakes is critical – especially if you want to be at the heart of innovation culture. To do this, you will need to:

  • Develop clear goals for each experiment with success criteria and ensure the team understands these experiments' value.

  • Ensure psychological safety to people taking on these experiments' risk by rewarding risk-taking and not punishing failure.

Many business leaders will find themselves in unknown territory and possibly with young yet more agile players in the game, even in an industry that did not see disruption before the crisis. Innovation will become the surviving necessity for legacy players during and after the crisis phase. And by following these five steps, you can ensure that your team will remain poised for innovation as we move forward after the pandemic.

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