Much of the news focuses on how hard businesses have been hit by the pandemic. However, strategy is about finding opportunities and adapting in a dynamic environment. Let’s not forget to focus on inspirational examples along these lines. Send students on a scavenger hunt (like the business combination scavenger hunt) to find unique examples. Invite students to identify 5 innovations have each student introduce an innovation and others who have the same innovation must cross it off their list. Note that this could be done in an online discussion forum. See how many unique innovations your class can identify. This can be done easily in a synchronous online session or in threaded discussion. Some types of examples to consider:
- Innovations to meet critical shortages. The shortage of ventilators has spurred multiple innovations such as the possibility of one ventilator serving up to 4 patients and the adaptation of CPAP machines. Many innovations have increased the supply of protective equipment (PPE) including companies re-purposing production facilities.
- New Treatments. Of course many firms are working to find treatments and/or an effective vaccine. These efforts are spread around the world so it is a race to see what will be most effective.
- Product Adaptations. Some products can be adapted to new uses and it is a question of how to recognize those opportunities. For example, Kinsa thermometers has collected data on fevers due to normal influenza patterns. The were then able to back out normal patterns to identify atypical fevers that might be due to COVID before patients began showing up in emergency rooms.
- Process Adaptations: Many service firms have adapted their processes to avoid contact. Some firms may be better equipped to do this than others (physical facilities, etc.) and it may help them survive. Even some farmers who have lost distribution channels have created contactless alternatives while others have had to destroy food that they could not get to market.
- Delivery Partners as a lifeline. Restaurants and other businesses often rely on partners to get their products to consumers. While these partners may have been a side business previously, they are a critical lifeline now (see EatStreet, GrubHub, DoorDash and others). Amazon has also done better than other retailers for this reason.
- Products in heavy demand. It isn’t just toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Other products have experienced significant demand and need to adapt their supply chains and processes to meet needs. Automatic door openers, video conferencing tools like zoom, door cameras like ring, are all in greater demand than anticipated.
- Innovation on the front lines. Healthcare workers and others on the front line are also innovating to try and do their jobs safely. Telemedicine has taken off sharply as a way to treat COVID and other types of medical problems while limiting the spread of COVID. These may also highlight opportunities for firms.
Contributed by Russ Coff