Resilience Through Innovation

Crisis creates opportunities. As we adapt to a new world, expect an acceleration of innovation.

May 6, 2020

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the old proverb states – and the Coronavirus crisis is driving a great wave of innovation. The obvious innovations are the pursuit of a vaccine and treatment options in record time. But there are many other examples of accelerating innovation, small and large. In this issue of Signal360 we focus on the ways innovation can thrive in a world of uncertainty, and how resilient we humans are in the face of adversity.

Futurist Peter Schwartz underlines the huge opportunity for leaders to articulate a vision coming out of the crisis, with hope for a kind of new future. In a pre-COVID interview, entrepreneur, investor, and author David Kidder spoke about the outside forces that require leaders to question the things they take for granted – because those things may no longer be true. We went back to David for a follow-up interview to get his perspective on how leaders can respond to the current crisis.

As we look to history to guide us, many analysts look at the 1918 pandemic. But World War II also offers significant management lessons, as organizations needed to respond in turbulent times. P&G’s historical archives show how the company coped – and set itself up for future success once the crisis was past.

One remarkable impact of the pandemic has been its impact on supply chains. How products are manufactured, then travel from A to B is mostly invisible to consumers, until those products are not available. The overall global supply chain has held up remarkably well given the impact of the crisis on the transportation industry. But there are important lessons for the future of supply chain innovation.

Sometimes a startup is in the right place at the right time. Video communication companies are one example. Another one is P&G’s Microban team, who launched a sanitizing spray in February and then had to totally rethink its launch plans. The team’s Signal Entrepreneur video tells a great story of professional and personal agility.

Instacart is another “right place, right time” example. When Nilam Ganenthiran, Instacart’s President, spoke at Signal in 2014, Instacart was only available in 14 U.S. cities. Today, Instacart is available to 85% of U.S. households, and has become an essential service overnight. Its growth today is what Instacart expected to see two to four years from now.

This is a remarkable time in history. To inspire us all, we asked a handful of past Signal speakers to provide us with book suggestions. You will find some surprising books worth reading. We hope that you will find the articles in this issue of Signal360 worth reading as well. Stay healthy and energized, so together we can reinvent what comes next.

Stan Joosten & John Battelle

Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G