In times of crisis, you have to innovate!

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Most true inclusive, humanistic and progressive innovations are born in times of acute crisis, under the pressure of urgency and need, which accelerates everything and makes it possible to put technology at the service of know-how and real needs. Innovation Tuesdays offer two reformatted and remastered videos on innovations born of the 1929 crisis and the Great Depression and on the relationship between crisis and innovation. An initiative that allows hope and reframing.

These are classics of the conferences proposed by Marc Giget's Les Mardis de l'innovation. We already said it in UP' in 2012: "In times of crisis, innovation is not an option but a necessity". In truth, the formula comes from Mark Atkins in an article in Business Week at the time. His reasoning is that companies must continue to invest in order to take dominant positions: it is in difficult phases that the real levers of success emerge. However, the return on investment is far from immediate and patience is required. Success will smile on the intrepid people who continue to invest during crises - according to one PIMS study –. The results will not be achieved in the short term and this is the real difficulty for innovators: it must be demonstrated to business leaders - themselves pressurized by short-term tensions - that budgets must be maintained and above all not cut, especially if it is a question of changing and transforming the world for the day after.

The health crisis we are experiencing must remember the examples of the past ... Periods of economic hardship usually bring bad news for innovation. Shareholders, banks and therefore management tend to focus on the short term, on the certain, on cost reductions... Concepts that are sometimes seen as being antinomic to innovation.

And yet! Previous crises have often led to upheavals in the competitive game: establishing or shaking leadership. We must be convinced that innovation is a powerful lever to turn these delicate moments into excellent opportunities to develop a competitive advantage. There is no shortage of examples: Renault, which successfully launched its Twingo in the midst of the 1992-93 recession; Technics, which turned its old turntables into products that are highly prized by DJs and enthusiasts at a time when the consumer market is collapsing; Apple's Ipod, launched in October 2001, just after the Internet bubble burst and September 11...

Today, in the face of a major crisis, in a very new context since the health sector is endangering the economy, since nature reminds us of its limits, the innovation manager must rethink his activity: how to deal with short-term expectations ("quick hits"), how to innovate with reduced resources, how to multiply his chances through "open innovation", and all this without compromising the long term, nor above all avoid further damage to the planet and to living things. 

History is punctuated by periods of amazing creativity. Periods of crisis are part of this, particularly for low-cost products, home made, the generalisation of "do it yourself" kits, products to get through or out of crises.

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First video: Innovations born from the 1929 crisis, a session presented by Marc Giget, President of the European Institute for Creative Strategies and Innovation, illustrated with numerous examples.

Second video: Analysis of the relationship between crises and innovations, examples. Through numerous examples as varied as canned food, jeans, nylon stockings, margarine, Nescafé, powdered milk, the 2 CV, the Ford T, the Seb pressure cooker but also Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Microsoft or Airbus, this session analyses the reasons for the success of products launched in times of crisis (wars, the 29th crisis, sectoral crises). Among the lessons that can be drawn from this are innovations that start from the bottom and go upwards (upmarket) and that are aimed at the greatest number of people. They are essentially syntheses of the state of the art rather than new advances, functional "Smart" definitions centred on the user, design rather than R&D, high quality and low price, efficient industrialisation and a high margin for the industrialist.

Header photo : Decathlon snorkeling mask diverted from its primary function to help protect against coronavirus © Paul Amas

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