Innovation During Crisis

Has COVID-19 been a crisis?
– Of course.

How were the vaccines made available to save the humanity?
– Innovation.


But it did not happen in only six months. Groundwork was being executed. Continuously. For other ailments. Advancement of Technology as well as Life Sciences happened in the exact pace to keep the platforms ready for collaborative research.

Please refer to How Computer Technology Helps Vaccine Development if interested.


What had changed the direction?

– Repurposing of Investment and Efforts across the Globe to tackle the urgency looming large in the face of mankind.


So, the complete sequence of actions behind COVID Vaccine Development established the fact that It is Possible.


Innovation when Organization has Conflicting Priorities 


Let expand the perspective to discuss how Innovation should be considered a Priority in an organization even when there are apparent hindrances.

Under any circumstances, Innovation should be value driven. Two important concepts were discussed by Prof Furseth et al (See the References below):


Innovation Capacity


Organizations are more inclined to allocating Investments for Product Improvement, Technological Innovation, Research and Development (R & D), hiring new people, procure new technologies etc.

But there is a challenge with the approach of focusing only on Innovation Capacity Development.

Innovation is normally considered to be DIA

D – Discovery. Ideation and Exploratory R & D is the key.
I – Invention. R & D is mainly geared towards the Invention process.
A – Acceleration for application & product development and market & revenue generation. This is very important that comes with Innovation Ability as detailed below.


Innovation Ability


It is oriented towards creating value to the organization through Innovation, something that any investment looks for achieving. It normally comes from the outcomes like New Customer experiences, Improved Service Model / New Business Model etc. Unless Investment in Innovation Capacity can generate this kind of outcomes, there is no revenue growth or profit out of the Innovation investments.


Operational Urgency vis-à-vis Future Growth


In any organization, normally the Investment and Efforts are channeled to the following categories of activities:

1. Daily Operations – Support and Maintenance

2. Incremental Improvements – Mostly driven by continuous improvements through Six Sigma or ITIL kind of frameworks

3. Sustaining Innovations – Characteristics of sustaining innovation as “better products that you could sell for better profits to your best customers.” (Clayton Christensen)

4. Disruptive Innovations – “Disruptive Innovation describes a process by which a product or service initially takes root in simple applications at the bottom of a market—typically by being less expensive and more accessible—and then relentlessly moves upmarket, eventually displacing established competitors.” (Clayton Christensen)


Below is a matrix showing the potential impacts in the future for current spending decisions (See the References below):


Spending and its Impact



Key Factors for Innovation with Vaccine Development


As a matter of fact, the huge success of BioTech/Life Sciences companies with Innovation took place with their sheer focus on the future.

• Relentless search for therapies
• Knowledge Repurposing geared towards fast innovation
• Emerging Technologies
• Open Cross-disciplinary collaboration
• Innovation with Project Fast Tracking
• Sense of urgency channelizing investments and resources in the short term for a particular purpose




As a conclusion, it can be stated that the most challenging task for the organizations is to find out methodologies suitable for each individual organization to prioritize tomorrow’s importance over today’s urgency.

Approaches could include –

1. Focus on Highest Priority Items. Do Less. Imbibe Simplicity all around.

2. Essential features with cutting costs.

2. Think again before Action.

3. Separate Innovation Team from the Operational Teams




1. HBR, The Right Way to Spend Your Innovation Budget by Peder Inge Furseth and Richard Cuthbertson

2. HBR, How to Prioritize Your Innovation Budget by Brad Power and Steve Stanton

3. MIT SMR, Lessons in Rapid Innovation From the COVID-19 Pandemic by Georg von Krogh, Burcu Kucukkeles and Shiko M. Ben-Menahem