During times of crisis (like, say, a global pandemic), some organizations (businesses, community groups, associations, etc.) will fold, while others will flourish. This has been true throughout history.
So what is it that separates the two? Luck? Timing? A smile from the Fates?
My research shows that, more than anything else, one single trait makes the difference. One asset — which is completely free and is available to anyone — separates the organizations that make it from those that don't.
If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!
I don’t know if you’ve read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, but you probably know the opening line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
I think most of us can agree that, regarding 2020, Dickens got it half right. For a lot of us — especially business leaders — 2020 has been “the worst of times.” You may be feeling that right now. You may have had really high hopes for this year: new product launch, record profits, unlimited potential! And then, there was this pandemic — and everything changed. Individuals, businesses — entire industries — faced upheaval like most of us have never seen before.
Everything may have changed for you too. Instead of looking forward to those record profits, you’re wondering if you’re even going to be in business a year from now. It’s a scary place to be, especially if you have others depending on you: your employees, your community, your family. It really does feel like “the worst of times.”
But here’s the thing.
None of this is new.
Oh, it might be new to you. And some of the specifics might be new. But going through “the worst of times”? Businesses have been doing that for generations. Wars, pandemics, uprisings, recessions — businesses have seen it all.
And every single time, some businesses folded — and some businesses flourished.
Darigold, Panasonic, and the Citizen Watch company were all founded during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. How about Sony Music, General Foods, and Hawaiian Airlines? They began during the Great Depression of 1929 — a year when companies like Martin Guitars and Procter & Gamble also thrived, while others went out of business.
In every crisis, throughout history, some businesses folded — and some businesses flourished.
So, what’s the difference? What separates the ones that thrive through a crisis from the ones that don’t?
Innovation. The businesses that thrive through a crisis innovate their way through the crisis.
They realize that what worked before is just that: what worked before. So while the competition either, A) goes into hibernation and tries to wait out the storm, or B) does what they’ve always done, only harder, longer, and faster, the businesses that thrive look at the situation and ask, “What’s fundamentally changed, and how do we need to change in order to stay relevant, necessary, and irreplaceable?”
And you’ve seen it already in 2020. Companies that have figured out new, innovative ways to serve their customers and clients. You hear their stories, and you think, “Wow — that’s somebody who’s figured it out!” And the marketplace thinks that too, so who do you think they’re going to want to do business with? Again, this isn’t new. McKinsey reports that, historically, companies that invest in innovation through a crisis outperform the competition by upwards of 30% — even once the crisis has passed.
It’s really pretty clear, isn’t it? Right now, when we’re all in the middle of “the worst of times,” your ability to innovate — to come up with creative ideas and turn them into something of value that makes your customers shout out, “There! There! That’s what I need! Right there! Thank goodness somebody finally figured it out!” — your ability to do that is what’s going to set you apart from your competition. Your ability to innovate is what will determine whether you fold, or whether you thrive through a crisis.
The game has changed. And the only way to win when the game has changed is to be a game changer yourself. And that is why learning how to innovate — right now, on demand — is the single most important thing you can do for the future of your business.