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Be agile or die trying: entering a new age of innovation

Be agile or die trying: entering a new age of innovation

Authored by Samantha Chance and Dipti Batta

Being agile is no longer a choice. It’s do or die. We don’t have the luxury of extending deadlines to get our work with our earlier models. We have to deliver within the ‘opportunity windows’ despite constraints and uncertainties.

We have all had to sink or swim in the last few months. While being at home can allow us more time to focus on the tasks we have been putting off, it can also lead to more distractions. We have learnt to drown out the noise of a dog bark that used to infuriate us during an important meeting and become masters at muting ourselves at exactly the right time. Instead of delaying the inevitable google search on the fundamentals of Microsoft Teams, we recognize that we have to learn fast or get left behind.

The same adaptive learning should be true for not only your colleagues, but for the entire organisation you are working within. Sadly this is not the case for many organisations. While the calls for innovation are getting louder with every announcement of amended lockdown restrictions, some organisations have been waiting for a return to business-as-usual despite prospects to the contrary.

The present crisis may fade in the future, but innovation is here to stay. Some organisations have used the obstacles created by the global pandemic as tools for transformation and creativity. Here are some examples:

  • Woolworths: due to an increase of demand for new delivery slots, Woolworths was able to roll out a “Click n Collect” option within three weeks. This idea was envisioned before South Africa went into lockdown on the 26th of March but was never pushed to completion. With the increased need for contactless shopping and the reduced number of customers physically allowed in stores, Woolworths has had to experiment with new ways of business. The “Click n Collect” function has demonstrated the intrinsic agility of Woolworths as it strives to meet the new needs and lifestyle changes of its customers.
  • Pick n Pay: the supermarket chain store utilized its existing partnership with Bottles, a start-up app that provides on-demand alcohol delivery, to increase its delivery capacity of grocery and essential goods. Pick n Pay needed to ensure its customers had options to buy and receive their necessary goods in the safest way possible and re-engineered their partnership with Bottles to adapt to the present conditions.
  • Nissan: car dealers have had to face the challenge of engaging with customers and allowing them to interact with the cars they are interested in buying without endangering them. Nissan has responded to this challenge by launching the shop@home service where potential buyers can have a virtual experience with the car they are interested in buying. Customers can now interact with and buy cars without leaving their homes, therefore creating a new avenue of virtual business that can be integrated into their future “business-as-normal” operations.

These consumer-based examples illustrate the opportunities available to organisations that have the drive to innovate in these uncertain times for sustainable relevance and competitive advantage.

Every industry has had to find ways to be agile in times of uncertainty and with that exploration comes new opportunities. Here are some examples in companies that are industrial, rather than consumer oriented :

  • Mining: The increased focus on providing safer working conditions amid the pandemic can be the catalyst for a significant mind shift. Although automation and remote mining are not new concepts to the industry, the pandemic has demonstrated the urgency for the development of these capabilities. Gold Fields Chief Executive Officer Nick Holland has said “in terms of technology, the Covid-19 crisis will undoubtedly help to accelerate mechanisation, automation, and digitisation of the mining industry.”
  • Manufacturing: The manufacturing industry, much like the mining industry, has struggled to adapt to the new world of work as many workers are unable to work from home. Manufacturers have had to directly confront various supply chain inefficiencies and reset their product strategies. They can embrace the new opportunity to adopt more agile technology that is able to keep up with the demand for products while maintaining a smaller on-site workforce.

These examples demonstrate that not only are difficult acts of innovation and advancement necessary to cope with the burdens of the pandemic, they can revolutionise the way organisations function in the future. At MAC, we understand what sets apart the organisations that are surviving, and even flourishing, in these times of crisis and those that are being left behind. Those who have succeeded have:

  • recognized the new world of work and that business may never “return to normal”
  • learnt to embrace, survive and subsequently thrive despite the uncertainty
  • sped up decision making and acted quickly
  • have leveraged the collective wisdom and innovative potential of their people
  • learnt to experiment without the risk of costly failures and incorporate the learnings into your processes
  • sought to understand the new needs of their customers and have redesigned their capabilities to account for these changes

MAC has experience in helping organisations adapt to become extremely agile in their context for their success. Contact MAC to learn more.