Q: What are some examples of businesses that creatively pivoted during the pandemic?
A: Businesses are always in the process of reinventing themselves, whether intentionally or in response to events and circumstances. There’s no better example of reinvention and forced innovation than what has transpired during the past six months. Even in the most diligent crisis communications planning, it’s doubtful that a business had a plan for the breadth and duration of the “what-ifs” the pandemic created.
Sometimes innovation and creativity are thrust upon us, like it or not.
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that we have to be more agile in our thinking and willing to get out of our comfort zones when it comes to trying new approaches, which is at the heart of creativity. The cycle of develop, test, learn and revise has increased exponentially, and so has the need to think strategically and creatively without the luxury of time and extensive testing. Going forward, not only through the rest of the year, but as a way of doing business, creative disruption should be a part of every company’s culture.
3M is a company that understands the need for creativity and innovation because, even in the pre-pandemic world, its goal is to derive roughly one-third of its annual sales from products created in the past five years. When the pandemic hit, that creative cultural DNA helped 3M find a way to significantly increase production of its respirator masks for health care professionals.
Another example is the nation’s longest continuously running satirical theater, the Brave New Workshop. When COVID-19 restrictions made live performances in the theater impossible, they developed outreach programs for companies that could be delivered online to help employees deal with the changes that the pandemic created. They also created live performances with a limited number of cast members that audiences could livestream because we could all still use some laughter and lightness in our lives.
3M and the Brave New Workshop are two businesses that embrace creative disruption as a way of doing business. If this pandemic teaches businesses anything, it’s that a creative, agile mind may be the most valuable asset to have.
Glenn Karwoski is a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.