Many businesses make the mistake of confusing innovation with invention. While, in some cases, the two words can be synonymous, more often than not, the two are entirely different undertakings. Particularly in challenging times, like the current pandemic, we’re living through, innovation is not reinventing the wheel, but improving the existing systems or processes that are already in place.
The most innovative businesses are the ones that identified pain points across existing operations or products and brought a fresh perspective to those ideas. Particularly in troubling times, true innovators take into account the shifts to our “normal” lives and find new ways to bring back as much normalcy as possible. Things as simple as the way we visit stores, go out to eat, and socialize with one another have all changed significantly over the past five months with no concrete end in sight. Since then, we have seen many businesses pivot their business models to meet the changing landscapes around us. While these are potentially on a smaller scale, for now, it is the first step to long-lasting innovation.
Let’s take Disney as an example. Walt and Roy Disney incorporated the company right at the start of the four-year-long Great Depression. While they didn’t invent the idea of video entertainment, what they did recognize was that people needed an escape from the negativity that overwhelmed the nation. In response, they put together their first feature-length film (better known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) and revolutionized entertainment for children and adults alike.
Just as the Disney brothers saw that the circumstances they were dealt with could lead to an enormous opportunity, it is now the time to do the same for the 21st century. While the mental and emotional impacts of COVID are not to be dismissed, as leaders within our own companies and industries, we are in control of how we emerge on the other side. There has never been a better time to drive real innovation through improvement than today. As the COVID pandemic continues to change the world around us, it is up to business leaders and early-stage entrepreneurs alike to be the revolutionaries who rise to meet the new challenges they’ve been presented.