Burst Innovation for Coronavirus: A Humanitarian Challenge

What is Burst Innovation?

Burst’ as a noun is defined as ‘a short, sudden, and intense effort.’

Burst Innovation’ can be defined as ‘a short, sudden, and intense innovation effort to quickly resolve a challenging business or humanitarian situation’. It is characterized by a clearly defined specific objective and speed of execution.

Corona virus outbreak around the world, at the moment needs Burst Innovation (Feb-March 2020). Although ‘Crisis Innovation’ may be more appropriate in China, where human lives in large number are at stake.

How to Pull it off in Less than 9 days?

Recently published ISO 56002:2019 provides guidance for the establishment, implementation, maintenance, and continual improvement of an innovation management system for use in all established organizations.

Being a part of US delegation to ISO development, we have a few things to learn and share. With that as a background, we have created a derivative process for innovation under challenging times such as COVID-19. The 5-step process can be viewed as

1.      Rapid Situation Analysis

A global situation such a coronavirus can put various individuals, companies, and countries in very different situations to resolve: from sick employees, disrupted supply chain, to revenue drops; all requiring different specific solutions. CDC and WHO provide a broad external context useful from employee health perspective. McKinsey is offering guidance and outlook to business that you can download from their website. BCG is educating leadership for now and next. These online resources are a good, however most business owners will have to assess their specific situation.

Start with defining the internal and immediate external Context (supply chain in this case). Separate out what is known for sure and what may be a speculation, or fear factor, yet to be verified. Conduct a quick and Narrow SWOT analysis in this context of your business situation.  It may or may not be a crisis.

Manufacturing, Material Flow, and People Movement are the major items disrupted by coronavirus. So, in a sense everyone is affected at the moment to varying degree.

We had partnered with Nerac on a successful burst innovation in summer 2018 for their unmatched ability to unearth relevant and useful information specific to context.

This step takes about 1.5 days

2.      Clear Executive Charter

Now define three scenarios (optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic) and predict the impact (near term and long term) for each of these scenarios on your purpose. State what the success should look like in near term and far term. Provide a clear charter – objective(s), resources, and constraints. This could take the form: “Protect employees and re-establish an alternate supply base to avoid disruption in customer deliveries” For those whose purpose is aligned with need of the day could have objectives like, “Triple the production of hand sanitizers and face masks, within a week”.

McKinsey defined three scenarios as quick recovery, global slowdown, and global pandemic/recession for the current case of coronavirus.

This step takes about half a day.

3.      Open Ideation

Next step is to generate dozens of ideas through structured ideation sessions, using proven techniques and a neutral facilitator. Please solicit external input if required. Ideation is different than brainstorming. Criticize openly to build upon each other’s ideas to refine. This is a team sport where individuals don’t win when the team loses. Ideas around protecting employees can be picked from OSHA guidance, SHRM, and HBR. Real challenge is in addressing company specific situation, particularly manufacturing supply chain, customer demand volatility, and alternatives to travel.

Our partner Growth Engine has been in ideation business for two decades and we have jointly executed some marvelous eye-opening sessions. We bring Idea Stormers by Bryan Mattimore to our clients.

This takes about 2 days.

4.      Quick Concept Qualification

Qualify ideas and concepts by asking these questions – Does it address the pain and fear? Do you have resources (sources) to execute required activities within time frame? Will it cause any collateral damage? Review and prioritize qualified concepts into projects as Prime path, Plan B, and Plan C. Not every idea is worth pursuing. Moreover, situation is still evolving. Ideation team should be on standby, as situation changes.  This concept has evolved from the proven business model canvas of Strategyzer.

Ensure that qualified concepts do not distract you from your purpose.

This takes about 2-3 days.

5.      Agile Execution Plan

The mini projects are like corporate firefighting and most of us are great at it. So, I won’t dwell too much on that. Bring on a leader, put the execution team together, and go for it. Diversity of skills and experience is valuable in the team. If you have a former ER nurse or a special forces individual, please include him/her on the team. They may turn out to be the MVP here. Monitor progress and be agile because the context might evolve.

Whether you come out positive or negative is going to depend upon leadership agility, organization’s capacity to innovate, and of course financial reserves to live through the crisis.

This final step takes about 2-3 days.

FINALLY – Let’s be socially responsible and ethical

This is also a chance to show compassion towards customers, suppliers, employee; by relaxing penalties, flexing schedules, accommodating deliveries, and so on.

It is so inhumane of those who are getting into price gouging and hoarding of hand sanitizer and face masks. Humanity is being tested here people. Let’s prove that we are worthy of this livable planet.

Further more…

Like home dept used to say “You can do it, we can help” (originally from Sunshine Ace in Florida)

Request a workshop on Burst Innovation at your facility.

All profits from sale of any products or services toward COVID-19 recovery will be donated to the cause. We believe in sustainability.

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