IP Practices: 8 Ways to Drive Innovation During Economic Downturn

An economic downturn often leads organizations to resort to budget cuts, especially long-term investments that were kept aside for innovation. The focus is shifted towards short-term priorities instead. While this is the most obvious approach, it certainly isn’t an advisable approach, especially in terms of how you safeguard Intellectual Property.

There is a greater need to innovate and protect during an economic slump. Decision-makers should capitalize on the opportunities put forth by recession and set a sustainable strategy for times ahead. This article explains how businesses can keep innovating during a difficult economic scenario.

Wading Through the Challenges with Right IP Practices

Recession allows bold leaders to act on innovation and leapfrog their competitors. By doing this, they ensure that their teams are well-guided throughout the innovation lifecycle. When you innovate your product or service in a simpler way, internal teams get empowered with adequate knowledge, while simultaneously making the customer feel ‘heard’. Take for example the simplified online banking solution, which was the result of the challenges faced by such institutions during the last recession phase. It serves as a determining factor to get the ball rolling.

In order to ensure that innovation is driven during an economic downturn, the following points highlighted in the figure below can be taken into consideration:

Figure: Methods to drive innovation during an economic downturn

1. Inspire by Action – Create a chain reaction and lead by example. The key stakeholders such as a CEO needs to drive the innovation agenda. They need to boost innovation by supporting relevant budgets that will encourage managers and their teams to deliver and be accountable for their work.

2. Identify the Core Objective – One can prioritize innovation investment a lot better when the core objective is defined. It should go beyond profitability and identify with your core purpose. To have a sense of purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, makes a company more innovative and is better able to respond to disruptions.

3. Prioritize Proactively – It is imperative that resource usage is well-optimized at the time of a downturn. Avoid projects that seem stagnant, and become proactive in prioritizing ones that will reap maximum results. Identify the risks associated with each project and access the ‘potential investment gains’ beforehand. Furthermore, the focus should be on identifying potential instead of performance as a guiding factor for innovation decisions. When you focus on the core potential, you can reap better growth opportunities.

4. Evolve as per your Customer – Economic challenges often reveal unmet customer needs. It should serve as an opportunity to improve your product or service. So, use this time to listen to the customer, the market and take notes on areas of improvement. Respond to those needs with innovation and put in adequate R&D efforts to hit the nail on the head.

5. Seek New Market Opportunities – Economic downturn is the best time to explore newer markets. For example, let’s consider the case of Groupon. It is an online marketplace that took advantage of the gap between the consumer and the seller, and bridged it effectively by allowing companies to reach their audience with the help of easily accessible deals and promotions, thus creating a new category altogether.

6. Expand on Partnerships – Economic downturn calls for a collaborative approach between businesses to drive innovation. This is a crucial time wherein business can be grown by partnering with others on the basis of mutual interests. Whether it is partnering with innovation leaders, research experts, suppliers, universities, governments or even customers, a healthy partnership can be an opportunity to share costs, minimize individual risks and optimize resources.

7. Bank on Technology – By using the right technology, one can ensure that the innovation lasts not just during the downturn but thereafter too. That is why it is crucial to bank on technology that could prove to be sustainable. Methods such as Technology scouting and developing a partner and supplier network are crucial to identify and evaluate opportunities.

8. Cover Innovation Gaps – It is best to access the strength of your innovation system at the time of an economic slowdown. Identify capability gaps and fix them with fewer resources to be ready when the upturn comes, so that your innovation system is at its optimum level.

Final Thoughts

To achieve long-term growth objectives, you need to build on innovation. The trick is to keep the thinking cap on throughout the downturn and be ready to apply the strategies effectively when the situation improves. It can help businesses to emerge stronger and get ahead of the game.

Sagacious IP, a global IP research and consulting company, offers services such as technology scouting to business to help them develop credible and unique ideas for innovations. Our team of techno-legal experts helps organizations to discover innovation gaps and identify new market opportunities. Click here to know more about the service.

– Vaibhav Henry (ICT Licensing & Sales) and the Editorial Team

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