Innovate your way out of a recession

Max McKeown

Ahead of his presentation and workshop at Destination Growth in November, innovation guru Max McKeown gives Peterborough Business a sneak preview of what he will be saying.

THE truth is that the best way to deal with a recession is to innovate your way out of it. As a business you could just cut back on everything, but you will also cut back on the very things that can help you to survive and grow. You could just continue to spend as if there was no recession but you will run out of money and waste opportunities to be innovative.

Alternatively, if you sit still you’ll be left behind – even in a recession. Customers spend longer making choices and looking for increased value from their purchases. They will work harder to buy new and improved goods. If your product is old and unchanged, they may abandon it.

So what can you do?

Get rid of what doesn’t work. Unnecessary meetings, procedures and checklists clog corporate arteries. They may even increase in times of uncertainty. To feel in control, managers squeeze their people harder – overloading schedules, undermining efforts to improve. The better way is to build a moderately sized bonfire and work collaboratively to burn red tape.

Question assumption, encourage adventure. Why can’t you deliver a product twice as fast? Why can’t a product be twice as economic? Toyota started their Hybrid car development during a recession. Can you create a mass market from a luxury or niche product? While your competitors are full of fear, uncertainty and doubt, you can introduce innovations that others cannot easily imitate because they question traditions. They may even look foolhardy or silly and avoid attention.

Engage your people. One worker complained he lost his job because the company wasn’t making money but in twenty years no one had asked him for any ideas to improve. There’s never a better time to strengthen working relationships. There’s never a better chance to engage employee inventiveness in the causes of cost savings and revenue growth. People have to know that making suggestions will not talk themselves out of a job. Give people the honesty and trust they need. You can cheat but there is a price to pay.

Cut back on what doesn’t help. Eliminating waste is at the heart of continuous improvement efforts. Travel expenses are costly. Help your people make the shift to technology that makes travel less necessary. Cisco has halved travel budgets and used some of the money to install high quality video conferencing facilities.

Reach out to customers. The people who buy your products are also thinking about how best to deal with a recession. Your suggestions and proposals for saving them money will receive more attention than usual. There is an opportunity to build strong relationships in the ‘heat of battle’.

Remember one thing – every crisis provides an opportunity to improve.

Join 1,000 business leaders and hear Max McKeown talk at Destination Growth – the east of England’s biggest business and networking event. Seminars are selling-out fast, so register now for Destination Growth 09 at Destination Growth 09 is £75+VAT to attend and takes place at AirSpace Duxford.