Too many leaders make the mistake of assuming innovation is all about ideas. But it's really about connecting the dots in a complex ecosystem
Too many leaders make the mistake of assuming innovation is all about ideas. But it's really about connecting the dots in a complex ecosystem

Driving Innovation for A Better World: Together We Can – and Will - Move Beyond

July 3, 2020
Anja Hoffmann

Most companies, innovative or not, are witnessing a faster pace of decision making as the realities of digital technologies are continuing to evolve, grow and reshape industries.

From innovation to digital transformation, technical jargon and leadership buzzwords can be confusing and it often creates the illusion that it’s something you can buy and implement like a plug-and-play solution. Business transformation is a tricky beast. Changing the DNA of a company from KPI-oriented and bureaucratic to innovative and transformative isn’t easy. But we have entered a new era of driving sustainability and innovation, and one thing is certain: The need for innovation is not going anywhere.

Business as usual is not an option

We stand on the brink of a sustainable revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and design businesses. Facing fast-changing markets, business leaders need a well-tuned innovation engine that can spot emerging trends in the industry and current technologies that are shaping it. But, where to begin?

One of the toughest challenges for innovation is finding a place to start. Many of our exciting competitors will be manufacturing and selling in the same way as always. That’s why we have to look beyond our own industry for new business opportunities and innovative ideas. Looking outside our industry can reduce the chances of missing out on essentials for business survival. All of which brings up a critical point: To rethink a business, leaders must commit to adapt to the new demands of collaboration models if they want to stay relevant in the market. In other words, as transformation happens, we must embrace ongoing curiosity in our organization and adapt to new ways of working across teams, companies and industries. Investing time in building lasting business partnerships with the companies, scientists and entrepreneurs who matter most for the future of our business shouldn’t be taken for granted. A strong ecosystem for innovation can solve the biggest challenges.


Several companies today actively promote innovation within their organizations, allowing their employees to explore new ideas and concepts. How can we make it a habit to search for new collaborative opportunities? Making curiosity and courage a daily routine takes investments risks. But it also increases our chances of creating real innovation.

Business executives are responsible for not just guiding their organizations to new technological heights which make economic short-term sense but also to do business in a sustainable manner. The leading companies find ways to embed innovation and sustainability into the fibers of their business models. There’s nothing like innovation to ignite a sustainable future. From rethinking company vision statements and modifying business models to designing the sustainable cities of the future. Covid19 has forced everyone into new ways of working and accelerating the digitization of business processes. We know that innovation can be a bumpy road and innovating your core business isn’t a self-contained event. You might not be able to make major changes instantly, but you can make tiny shifts in your organization and take tiny steps toward the business you want to create. We’ve come a long way since we first started to apply digital technologies to our daily business routines. If you have been waiting for a transformative sign or an innovative nudge to get started on your business transformation, it’s happening right this moment. So, if not today, then when?

Why a crisis is a perfect time to rethink our businesses

Necessity is the mother of most innovations. The linear supply chain model has failed during the corona-crisis. For long-term success more essential questions have to be addressed regarding the future of supply chains, business models and circular models.

Today, engineers, philosophers, designers and industry leaders have innovation and the latest trends at their fingertips with data analytics, trusted business partners and a curious mindset. Some businesses follow a linear process, while these pioneers prefer an iterative one. It’s hard work, but companies and leaders can gain a lot by deepening their understanding of ecosystems for innovation and the actions for putting them into practice. It provides insights on how they can move their business forward.

In a better world, we connect innovation, technologies and sustainability

So many dots to connect.

Sustainability and innovation might seem like two different activities, but in fact, they are strongly connected in a strategic level. We can learn a lot from other companies, especially those who already connect the dots and integrate the SDGs into their business strategy.

The industrial pioneers are connecting the dots across innovation, technologies and sustainability. They take the hype out of innovation and emerging technologies. They are aware of that blending an innovation portfolio into an existing business portfolio isn’t a single department or R&D department challenge. Every part of the organization is involved. They accelerate innovation and design thinking as a people-centric approach. Technologies and innovative solutions are enabling companies to accelerate the transition into circular economy.

Visionary leaders endorse the importance of connecting the dots and boosting innovation, but at the same time, create room for a smooth transformation while moving beyond linear thinking towards circular thinking. These leaders should encourage us to boost our productivity, growth and profitability through innovation and sustainability while maintaining our exciting business. 

In a better world, we connect innovation, technologies and sustainability

Insights and digital technologies lead the way to the innovation of our value chain. It starts with a definition of our innovation portfolio and prioritization. Questions concerning technologies, strategic programs, business models and value chains will be key enablers for our innovation. 

Seven questions to plan your next steps to boost your innovation:

  • How are we adapting the core business to meet shifting customer needs?
     
  • How do we find new business opportunities that are a good fit for our innovation?
     
  • How should we change our investments across productivity, customer experience, and automation projects?
     
  • What is the gap between our short-term and long-term plans? 
     
  • How is covid19 impacting our key strategic programs?
     
  • What is our innovation story? And why is our business in the situation it is in?
     
  • Leading companies stimulate and encourage sustainability. How do we reward innovative behavior and circular thinking in our organization? 

In relation to the transformation that our industry already has been through, which things have been most difficult for our business to handle? And what things have been the easiest?

Will we be able to stand out from the new competition?

Raising the bar in response to new sustainable demands, resource scarcity and creating a better world, I believe that solutions to major global challenges will be led by scientific breakthroughs and innovative business models, while achieving the SDGs. 

Together we can move ideas and connect the dots.