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Could you break down barriers to innovation?

The world has changed, though by how much isn’t fully known yet. The legacy of Covid-19 on the way we work and live will only become clear once we’ve moved beyond the grip of the pandemic. However, one thing is certain, businesses that innovate will do better than those that don’t, writes InterTradeIreland.

For any person or firm, change can be daunting. It can take guts to properly examine what you do, decide to do it better, and then act on it.  You also need leadership.  To help SMEs, InterTradeIreland has developed a series of Innovation and Business Resilience webinars for people who understand they need to drive their business forward but have no idea where to start.

These webinars offer a blueprint for action and future business resilience, with direct access to both national and international speakers. The hosts in four of the island’s most prestigious business schools provide regional and local context to the conversations, sharing insight into the way that crisis innovation is unfolding on this island and further afield.

The series includes talks by international expert on Innovation Management; Professor Oliver Gassman, and Queen’s University Belfast Management lecturer and entrepreneurship expert, Dr Lisa Messina.

Helping your business stay agile

Professor Oliver Gassman has a profound understanding of what it means to innovate and how to break down barriers in your business to do it properly. A well regarded economist in Germany, Professor Gassman has taught at Harvard Business School and has worked with companies like BMW, IBM and Toshiba.

In his webinar on business model innovation for post crisis growth, he outlines the key steps to help businesses withstand the external pressures of change caused by Covid-19, and crucially adapt to grow.

Professor Gassman says “The pandemic has impacted the supply chains of many of the bigger firms. This is an opportunity for smaller companies to fill those gaps. SMEs may not be as cheap as other suppliers, but it’s become more important to have a supply chain that is reliable.”

“It’s also important that smaller businesses are aware of what’s happening around them. You need to identify trends in your sector. Crises like the pandemic accelerate trends and you need to be aware of possible impacts on your business.”

He concludes “SMEs have an advantage as they tend to be more agile than big business. You should think big, start small, fail cheap and learn fast.”

Strategic tools for SME crisis management

Another speaker in our series of Innovation Resilience webinars is Dr Lisa Messina, a lecturer at Queen’s University Management School, Belfast who has expertise in entrepreneurship, international business and innovation. In her webinar, Strategic tools for SME crisis management, Dr Messina shares insights, tools and strategies to help SMEs navigate real-time problem solving in the current Covid-19 crisis and beyond.  She encourages small business owners to get out of emergency mode and adopt an ‘entrepreneurial orientation’ focusing on being pro-active, innovative and taking calculated risks.  She expands on some of the points below:

Pro-activeness

‘This requires you to be forward-looking and opportunity-seeking and involves anticipating future demand and competitors’ moves.

However awful this crisis is, it is disrupting the market, and as markets get disrupted opportunities emerge. Be alert to these opportunities and find ways to pursue them. Only by doing so, will you continue to deliver value to your customers and keep ahead of your competition.’

Innovativeness

‘This essentially requires you to change what you’re doing. Find ways to deliver value to your customers that facilitates the pursuit of opportunities you identified through pro-activeness. This may involve your business developing new products or services. You must be open to changing your supply chains and processes as the environment changes.’

Take calculated risks

‘Risk-taking requires businesses to identify and assess their weaknesses and simultaneously evaluate the risks involved in the new opportunities identified. Where the benefits outweigh the costs, go after those opportunities.’

Dr Messina concludes ‘What constitutes proactive, innovative and risk-taking behaviour will depend on the characteristics of your company and your industry – so identifying a universally appropriate plan of action for the wider SME population to navigate this crisis is challenging.

Nevertheless, these strategic tools and behaviors can be extremely useful in reducing the uncertainty and chaos generated by the current circumstances, and to help you take the initial, critical steps toward a new, reconfigured mission.’

This series of webinars gives SMEs who want to move their business forward some useful insights into how to start this process,  look for new opportunities and explore new innovative ways of doing business which will help them not only survive the pandemic but help them adapt and grow their business.  View all the webinars at https://intertradeireland.com/covid-19-supports/innovation-business-resilience-webinar-series