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Innovation in the times of COVID19: Do companies really need to build something “new”?

Let us start by pointing out that while this article is being released during COVID-19, much of what is mentioned here is related to business-as-usual, whether there is a crisis or not.

Value creation is probably a concept that is very much a priority for many companies—with a whole new level of urgency. This is the exact moment when the word “innovation” comes to the surface, taking on a new role, much like a lifesaver at this point in time.

While many of you might be thinking of a patent, please allow me to clarify that these are two separate concepts. A patent is a right granted by a particular government to exploit with exclusivity an invention (product or procedure), and that has an inventive level, novelty, and an industrial application.

What, then, does the term “innovation” actually mean? Simply put, innovation is to launch an idea into a market, allowing it to be available to the general public. The definition for “innovation” may sometimes be a target of debate or a whole discussion by itself. However, let us steer away from this and instead point out that a person, a company or an entity can innovate by creating a new concept with or around elements that already exist or are known to the public. In other words, you do not need to invent something to innovate.

Having established some basic concepts, let us now focus on the importance of innovation in these challenging times. Many companies are directing their efforts and resources on digitalizing what may have been done before on a more traditional level. That is, companies are powering through digital technologies (as well as their imagination), to create and build value, adapting to a very dynamic and changing market.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, smart contracts, blockchain protocols, are some of the technologies that are now allowing the construction of new use cases in different industries. From health to entertainment, the impact that these technologies will have in our daily lives is yet to be assimilated. It almost seems that companies are more focused on digitalizing what before COVID-19 was more brick-and-mortar like. More than coming up with “new stuff,” industries are shifting their efforts and resources to innovate through already existing pieces. And there is much value in this.
 

"From health to entertainment, the impact that these technologies will have in our daily lives is yet to be assimilated. It almost seems that companies are more focused on digitalizing what before COVID-19 was more brick-and-mortar like"
 

This strategy (innovating through the “old”) is probably one of the smartest approaches that a company may opt for now. In a world with a shaken global economy, humanity is struggling to adapt and fast. This means that there is opportunity in re-thinking what already exists and find ways to make this available to the public given all the restrictions that exist nowadays for the known health-issues.

Additionally, under these circumstances, the vulnerable populations now face significant obstacles in covering their basic needs (such as health and education), so the implementation of new technologies for digital transformation is highly encouraged by different multilateral organizations. Connectivity is a determining factor for this. According to the 2019 State of Broadband report, 2019 was the first year in which more than half of the total population (51.2% or 3.9 billion people) was able to log on to the Internet and, consequently, take part in a digitalized global economy.

So, shifting into a digitalized world, where technology is one of the essential elements for the continuum of life as we know it, requires a very clever innovation strategy for all verticals. This may also set the path for new and creative ways for collaboration, such as designing open innovation synergies, the reinforcement of entrepreneurial ecosystems and the inclusion of every source of ideas (academia, government and private sectors).

 

"Shifting into a digitalized world, where technology is one of the essential elements for the continuum of life as we know it, requires a very clever innovation strategy for all verticals"
 

There is then, amid this ongoing crisis, a lot of value for companies to grab. There is a large window of opportunity for digital transformation that is making and will continue to make people’s life more comfortable or, at least, as normal as possible. Companies have a great opportunity of re-creating from already existing parts, generating intellectual property (and therefore concise intangible assets), and launching great solutions to a market that has new needs every day. It is crucial, though, to have a “disciplined strategy” for achieving excellent outcomes. To organize a highly experienced innovation team that will guide this process through goods and services that will be more than welcome with the correct product-market fit.

Silvana Lopez (The Blockchain Challenge)
31 July 2020

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